Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 26, 2014

August 25, 2013

I Have a Speech | Capitol Quip

I Have a Speech | Capitol Quip

With President Barack Obama slated to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech this week, the pressure may be on him to inspire as King did back in 1963. No doubt his speechwriters are working overtime to come up with something grandiose and visionary.

So what’s your take? Send us your caption for this week’s Capitol Quip. Leave it in the comments section below.

Editors will pick five finalists Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner until Thursday afternoon. To check out past winners, visit Pinterest.

By Emily Pierce Posted at 7:10 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Asked and Answered | Capitol Quip

Asked and Answered | Capitol Quip

Thanks to the many readers who contributed captions for last week’s Capitol Quip contest. Here’s the winning entry, as voted by readers of Heard on the Hill.

The winner will receive a signed color print suitable for framing from Roll Call cartoonist R.J. Matson. Check out our past winners on Pinterest.

August 23, 2013

Simpson Challenger Still Steamed About Lobster Dough

House hopeful Bryan Smith has a real beef with the spending choices Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, has made in the past, including some taxpayer funds he voted to send halfway across the country for seafood development.

During an interview conducted here at CQ Roll Call — watch more of the Q&A here — Smith laundry-listed what he believes to be some of Simpson’s greatest misses, harking back to the $188,000 that Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe (since retired) and Susan Collins tucked into the appropriations pipeline half a decade ago.

The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste squealed about the funds funneled to the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute in its “Congressional Pig Book” for 2008.


Patrick Leahy ‘Batty’ for Ben Affleck

The Internet continues battling it out over whether Ben Affleck is “daredevil” enough to successfully play Bruce Wayne in the Superman-Batman team up Warner Bros. has slotted for release in 2015. But “Dark Knight” alumnus Patrick J. Leahy has endorsed the Beantown native.

The Vermont Democrat and ardent comic book fan praised Affleck as a solid pick to play the brooding billionaire cum cowl-donning vigilante. Given that he worked with the late, great Heath Ledger, we’re willing to trust Leahy’s judgment — for now. Full story

Ben’s Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Fifty-five years ago, on Aug. 22, 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl opened for business. Now an essential and thriving part of the community, it has seen the landscape of U Street Northwest drastically change over the years. It survived the riots in the ’60s, waves of construction around the U Street Metro and a sluggish D.C. economy. Yet through it all, it beckoned people to come in, sit down at the counter and share conversation.

Bens Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Marion Barry in front of the mural of President Barack Obama outside Ben’s.
(Courtesy BadAperture)

It doesn’t matter if you like your half-smoke grilled, split and fried, or, as their biggest fan Bill Cosby likes it, topped with onions, mustard and chili. You can even be a vegetarian, Democrat or Republican. Ben’s is nonpartisan, and celebrities and average Joes are all treated like family.

As Councilmember Marion Barry put it at Thursday’s celebration for Ben’s 55th anniversary, “The only people I know who could get Jesse Jackson, Marion Barry, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Gray and the community together at one time, is the Ali family at Ben’s.”

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who said he frequents Ben’s one to two times a week, made a proclamation that Aug. 22 is Ben’s Chili Bowl Day in the District of Columbia.

Bens Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Gray congratulates the Ali family on 55 years of Ben’s Chili Bowl.
(Courtesy BadAperture)

Even President Barack Obama showed his support by sending a message to the Ali family via Brian Summers, a staunch Republican. “Ben’s celebrates family equality and fosters a strong sense of community to all who visit. As we mark this milestone, we take pride in this special day at Ben’s,” Summers said. In closing, he noted the first lady “will come back for a special visit.”

Being a pillar in the community, the restaurant sees everybody. But only comedian Bill Cosby and the Obama family get to eat at Ben’s for free. Cosby is also the only one whom Nizam Ali — the youngest of Ben’s sons —  has delivered half-smokes to in New York, the Solomons Island and Richmond, Va. But Cosby has been a fan for 54 years, so he’s treated like family.

Still, the entire Ali family tries to remain humble about their success.

“The success isn’t something we feel we can take credit for,” Nizam Ali told CQ Roll Call. “Someone in the family is here every day; you do what needs to be done.”

Bens Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Cosby was the master of ceremonies at the 55th anniversary celebration at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
(Courtesy BadAperture)

Nizam Ali credits his parents for raising him and his brothers in the business and having them do every conceivable job in the restaurant.

“But it’s also God looking out for us,” he continued. “It’s Karma. You can’t get arrogant because it’s everyone who comes through our doors that keeps us here. We’ve been blessed.”

It’s no secret that Ben’s is a big tourist draw, and people come from all over the world to visit. But it’s more than the food that keeps them coming back, Nizam Ali said.

He recalled a story his father told him of  a guy who sat down and ordered a chili dog, then another and another.

“At some point, my dad started talking to him, and the guy tells him, he just got out of jail, and Ben called him ‘sir.’ No one calls him sir, and it was nice to feel like a normal person for once.”

Moe, a 16-year employee of Ben’s Chili Bowl who was introduced at the celebration, met his wife at Ben’s Chili Bowl. During his time at Ben’s, he said he picked up some of the Ali family’s values of being an anchor in the community.

“I’ve become a mentor, an uncle to young men  in neighborhood,” Moe said. “For the Howard students, I’ve been a counselor. The stools at the counter have become couches. I’ve been a psychologist and Monday morning quarterback.”

The excitement for the anniversary drew thunderous applause and joyous yelling from the large crowd that gathered Thursday.

“Hello,” Cosby said, at one point taking the microphone, “you all don’t have to pay much attention just walk around and enjoy and take your medication and in 20 minutes you will quiet down.”

“It wouldn’t be Ben’s if we didn’t have someone yelling from the community,” Nizam Ali joked.

August 22, 2013

D.C. United Hosts Inaugural Capitol Hill Night

The District’s soccer team is trying to integrate into the Capitol Hill scene.

D.C. United will host its inaugural Capitol Hill Night on Saturday at 7 p.m. D.C. residents living in the 20002 and 20003 zip codes receive discounted sideline tickets and the event also includes local vendors and a pre-game tailgate at RFK Stadium. D.C. United’s Vice-Captain John Thorrington said the event is a cool new initiative for the team.

“It’s a really cool city, and it hasn’t disappointed,” said Thorrington, who played in England, Germany, Chicago and Vancouver before joining the black and red this year. “The people, the monuments and the history are all great. I really appreciate how accessible everything is; you can hop on a bike and be at all the monuments and museums in 10 to 15 minutes.”

D.C. United faces Toronto FC. Despite the team’s struggles this year, Thorrington said the team is playing for the future and this event will help boost fan support, especially as the team builds a new stadium.

“I live on Capitol Hill, and it really has a neighborhood feel,” Thorrington said. “I have been to pretty much every stadium and the location of the stadium is very important, particularly in D.C., and the fact that the new stadium will remain in the city is great.”

Thorrington also hit the streets to promote the event. Check out the team’s video below:

Moldy Food in the Longworth Cafeteria?

Are you happy now, congressional vegetarians? Reports are cropping up about moldy grub in the Longworth cafeteria.

It remains unclear whether Restaurant Associates has embraced fungus-laced foodstuffs as a passive-aggressive response to those who have grumbled about the dearth of “green” menu options or if the corporate catering outfit just caught a bad one somewhere down its distribution chain. The Capitol Hill dining vendor did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment about the gut-wrenching disclosure.

But a House aide passing through the Longworth food court this morning about lost his lunch after getting an earful of the following, terribly unsavory status report.

“We serve good food here. Good food doesn’t have mold in it … and there’s been some mold in the food. We can’t serve food with mold,” an HOH tipster said he heard a managerial type alerting rank-and-file food service personnel.

The harried staffer did not have time to stick around for the rest of the “great mold speech of 2k13” but suggested that none of the crew seemed totally shocked by the revolting development.

August 21, 2013

Pie It Forward in Chinatown

People often complain about the state of the world. The economy isn’t great, and every day there is another tragedy in the news. What can the average Joe do to change any of that? Well, if you are Sarah Fertig and her team of self-proclaimed “weirdo do-gooders,” you bake pies and give them away for free.

It began in July 2012, when Sarah and her then-boyfriend Chris Kovac were baking and giving away free pie in Ann Arbor’s Liberty Plaza. Deep down Sarah, felt a push to take their message cross-country and reach more people.


Pie It Forward in Chinatown

Chris, Sarah, and Shalosh of Pie it Forward.
(Courtesy of Sarah Fertig)

“We started giving away our pies in Ann Arbor last year from July till November” said Fertig. “We loved the mission so much we decided to quit our jobs and travel the country to bring the pies and the message to a wider audience.”

What’s the catch? Nothing in life is ever free, so there must be a hidden message or a political rant that goes with the pie, right? Full story

5 Captions for Your Next Town Hall | Capitol Quip

5 Captions for Your Next Town Hall | Capitol Quip

The five finalists for this week’s caption contest are ready for your votes.

Using the comments section below, vote for your favorite caption until 5 p.m. EDT Thursday.

Here are this week’s finalists:

  • It’s great to finally meet the person who approves of my work in Congress. Glad you could make it, Mom.
  • For my next answer, I will need you to raise your other hand to ensure no recording devices are present.
  • Yes, do you have an approved question I can answer with one of my canned responses?
  • I only have time for one more question …
  • What would you like to talk about — motherhood or apple pie?

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Aug. 25. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.

Trade Grub for Suds Tonight at Hawk ‘n’ Dove

Trade Grub for Suds Tonight at Hawk n Dove


DC101 is hosting a “Helping Hour” promotion from 3 to 7 p.m. tonight on Capitol Hill to collect food and other necessities for the Capital Area Food Bank.

Delivering a canned good/nonperishable item to the Hawk ‘n’ Dove will net you one free Samuel Adams draft. After that, the charitable minded will enjoy $1 drafts of featured Boston Beer Co. brews.

Afternoon drive guy Roche will be broadcasting live from the bar and will also give patrons the opportunity to enter for a chance to win a trip to Cancun (contest runs through Aug. 31).


August 20, 2013

The Perks Ted Cruz Forfeits by Dumping Canada

Red-blooded American Ted Cruz (at least on his mother’s side) has vowed to cut ties with his native soil, Canada, after learning that he most likely holds dual citizenship.

The Texas Republican’s hasty retreat from The Great White North might help smooth the path to a future presidential run:

(Jack Donaghy would be proud of you, sir!)

But it’s also going to cost him a host of opportunities.

Here’s a half dozen things Cruz has just kicked to the curb:

The Perks Ted Cruz Forfeits by Dumping Canada


Presidency, schmedency. There are no terms limits for the prime minister!

Full story

Alexander Opponent Stumbles Right Out of the Gate

Alexander Opponent Stumbles Right Out of the Gate

(Courtesy HOH Tipster)

It’s common knowledge that some tea partyers eschew scientific reasoning.

Senate hopeful Joe Carr has kicked things up a notch by turning his back on the “theories” advanced by Noah Webster.

Beste ohv luk wif yur kampayne.

August 19, 2013

Reid: MLB Should Let Pete Rose Into the Hall of Fame

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., thinks that Major League Baseball should lift its lifetime ban on Pete Rose and induct him into the Hall of Fame.

Because, of course. Reid loves talking about baseball. And he’s also from Nevada, where gambling is nbd. For those of you a little more #WGDB and a little less #MLB, Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in hits but is permanently banned from Cooperstown because he bet on games while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds.

Before a scheduled political interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Reid was talking up the Hall of Fame credentials of Ichiro Suzuki, when he dropped the bomb about Charlie Hustle.

“And let’s also bring in Pete Rose. He has been punished enough,” Reid said, according to the paper. ”He [Rose] has been [punished] for years. … He bet when he was a manager of a team. Games were lost. All that stuff. But he’s been punished enough. He is one of the great baseball players of all time. He didn’t take drugs, so yes; I think he should be in.”

It remains unclear whether Reid’s last indictment — “he didn’t take drugs” — was a direct shot at embattled New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. But at this point, a shared hatred of that guy could be the only bipartisan bridge to avert a government shutdown, so maybe we’ll take it. But let us not forget, Reid is still the guy who makes political analogies on the Senate floor pegged to Davey Johnson being the best manager in baseball and that dude appears to be on his way out.

How Tipper Gore Helped Danzig Become a Household Name

Happy Birthday, Tipper!

The former wife of ex-Sen./VPOTUS/Internet “creator” Al Gore turns 65 today, granting her the full rights and privileges — discount movie tickets, early-bird dinner specials, carte blanche to yell “Get Off My Lawn!” until her voice cracks — associated therewith.

Then again, she’s been acting like a fuddy-duddy for years now: 28, to be exact.

It was nearly three decades ago that she birthed the Parents Music Resource Center campaign — a nanny-state effort to purge the world of offensive music that actually helped a number of underground artists, including horror-core front man Glenn Danzig, gain more mainstream attention.

Tipper’s crusade to crack down on certain tunes by branding them with the now-ubiquitous “Parental Advisory” label galvanized the music community, leading to a standoff in the Senate between lawmakers and a united front led by Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider, country legend John Denver and sonic iconoclast Frank Zappa.

The movement so infuriated Danzig, he wound up penning his break out song “Mother” — a thunderous indictment of authoritarian short-sightedness which helped catapult Danzig from “Headbangers Ball” favorite to heavy rotation on regular radio — about it. Full story

Cutest Dogs? Fireside21 Is Looking for Them on Capitol Hill

The ex-staffers behind Fireside21, a constituent engagement shop, want to give the furry-footed members of Congress their due via a new “Top Dog” contest.

The online competition pits congressional pets against one another in a virtual cute-off where he/she with the most clicks will eventually reap some VIP treatment. The top 10 vote-getters will be invited to a “Top Dog” reception — with complimentary dog bowls, ‘natch — scheduled to take place at 409 Seventh St. NW on Sept. 10.

Now, while we here at HOH remain totally impartial when it comes to pet-porn-related affairs, we would like to highlight (with possible superlatives) a few of the pooches that happened to catch our eye:

Cutest Dogs? Fireside21 Is Looking for Them on Capitol Hill


Most Put Upon

Full story

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