Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 23, 2014

September 13, 2013

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

Aragon and Quince in the Cannon Building.
(Courtesy Aragon’s Facebook page)

Capitol Hill loves its pets — cats, dogs and the exotic alike — and the affection was on full display last week, as Fireside21 revealed the winners of its “Top Dog” contest and the Animal Health Institute hosted its 17th Annual Celebrity Pet Night, complete with the winners of its 2013 Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill Contest.

“Pet Night is a fun, popular and interactive way to highlight how much we love and care for our pets,” Ron Phillips, AHI’s vice president of legislative and public affairs, said of Thursday night’s event.

The judges — Kate Bennett of Washingtonian Magazine, Benny Johnson of BuzzFeed, Tommy McFly of 94.7 Fresh FM and Nikki Schwab of US News & World Report — were tasked with sorting through the  awww-inducing submissions. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., a veterinarian, announced the winners, bracketed by Quince, who plays Baxter in “Anchorman II” and Aragon, who plays Lord Tubbington on “Glee.”

The cutest exotic pet was the turtle Senator, owned by Megan Thompson, from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The cutest cat was Avon Barksdale, who is owned by Aly Lubov, who works for Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. And the cutest dog was Lily, who is owned by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif.

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

(Courtesy Facebook)

Meanwhile, Fireside21′s “Top Dog” winners, an online contest that had the Hill burning up the Internets, were announced Tuesday on its readers radar.

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

“Top Dog” Winston
(Courtesy Fireside21)

Online voting has been under way since August. The competition was nothing to woof at, but the top honors went to Winston, the English Labrador representing the office of Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

“The winners were chosen based upon their point total with one point for a ‘Like’ and two for a ‘Share’ on Facebook,” explained Fireside21 CEO Ken Ward, who was impressed with the voting support that the inaugural competition’s dog-testants received.

Ward told HOH that the cumulative score was 158,309, with the top vote-getter receiving 56,195 points.

“We do anticipate repeating this contest in future years,” Ward said, “but since we received a few complaints from cat people feeling left out, we may have to expand the concept.”

September 12, 2013

House Defeats Senate in Dress for Success Drive

House and Senate members and staffers faced off Thursday in the fourth annual Dress for Success/FedEx Congressional Dress for Success Challenge, collecting 1,459 articles of professional clothing for low-income women. The House collected 866 pieces to the Senate’s 593. After the deadline, another 100 or so items flooded in, but didn’t affect the final contest tally.

House Defeats Senate in Dress for Success Drive

Landrieu, center, donates clothing during the Congressional Dress for Success Challenge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate and the House each had a designated drop-off location, and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., served as honorary chairwomen of the event.

“It’s such an easy, fun and rewarding way to reach out to women who need that extra boost,” Landrieu said. Dressing professionally gives people the confidence to fully embrace their career ambitions, she added.

“It’s important to feel good about yourself … both inside and out,” Landrieu said.

In an outdoor alcove at Johnny’s Half Shell Take Out, staffers stood behind a row of tables, accepting and sorting donations into the FedEx boxes behind them.

While this is the fourth year of the “Congressional Challenge,” Dress for Success has been holding an annual women’s clothing drive for seven years and Landrieu said she’s “almost certain” she’s attended every one of them.

As one of only 20 female senators, Landrieu noted that entering male-dominated fields can be intimidating, but having the proper attire can be a much-needed confidence boost.

She said that donating isn’t hard — women just need to look for those clothes they don’t wear or that don’t fit right.

“Every woman has something in her closet” to donate, Landrieu said.

Krysten Joyce, who works for Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., attended the event, donating shirts and jackets.

“I think it’s important to give these ladies a good head start,” Joyce said. “I had extra clothing and was happy to donate.”

Dress for Success is a national organization and its Washington, D.C., affiliate organized Thursday’s event. In addition to providing professional clothing to low-income women, Dress for Success offers several career-focused services such as mock interviews, help with résumés and workshops about entering the workforce.

Tumultuous Day for Concepcion Picciotto’s White House Peace Vigil

First, the man who was supposed to be watching Concepcion Picciotto’s 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week peace vigil wandered away from his guard duty.

Then the Park Police, finding the site abandoned around 4 a.m., packed up the patio umbrella draped with white plastic that has served as Picciotto’s makeshift shelter since the Reagan administration and placed it in agency storage.

News that Picciotto’s anti-nuclear vigil — a collection of hand-drawn signs calling on the president to BAN ALL NUCLEAR BOMBS that is widely considered the nation’s longest-running act of political protest — had disappeared spread fast.

The Washington Post, which published a fascinating profile of Picciotto in May, was on the scene and checking in with activists at The Peace House in Northwest D.C., who help take care of the vigil.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., instructed staffers to call the Park Police and try to track down Picciotto’s belongings.

National Park Service Public Information Officer Jeffrey Olson put out a statement explaining that officers removed the site after finding it abandoned, according to federal regulations that require it to be “continuously attended.”

By 2:30 p.m., activists returned to the site with the reclaimed signs and shelter materials.

Norton’s office released a statement trumpeting her staff’s role in the imbroglio: “I appreciate that the Park Police have worked with us to defuse a growing controversy about the removal of Concepcion Picciotto’s belongings.”

She also took the opportunity to praise and defend Picciotto: “She is well known for her willingness to engage in principled activism at considerable personal costs. She and her friends and allies have abided by the rules, and this single mishap by a fellow activist should not torpedo her longstanding vigil. In this city, we work together to find solutions.”

Or, as Picciotto phrased it for The Washington Post: “This is just so much trouble for nothing.”

By Hannah Hess Posted at 4:53 p.m.
DC, media, Reps

Conservative Pols to Deliver Collegiate Crash Course on Benghazi


Conservative Pols to Deliver Collegiate Crash Course on Benghazi

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican lawmakers Lindsey Graham, Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz are taking their critiques of the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, on the road Friday, sharing their well-documented concerns about President Barack Obama’s handling of the international conflict with poli-sci students at Furman University in South Carolina.

Dr. Danielle Vinson, professor of “The American Congress” course the pols will be presiding over, told HOH that Gowdy pitched this particular guest lecture plan to school administrators — an offer she readily accepted.

“It’s an opportunity for students to meet with members of Congress and see how they think and act and interact,” she said. “We want students at Furman to experience the real world.”

Vinson noted that she had previously invited Gowdy, along with fellow Palmetto State delegation member Jeff Duncan, to chat up one of her classes during their first terms in Congress. A Graham aide assured HOH that his boss has spoken “at just about every college/university in South Carolina;” Vinson confirmed she’d seen him around campus — “Sen. Graham has done a town hall at Furman,” she shared. Full story

Gaming Lobby Hosts ‘Madden 25’ Roll Out at Hawk N Dove

Are you ready for some make-believe football? (No, we’re not talking about your fantasy draft.)

The Entertainment Software Association is in town to show off the latest installment of the incredibly addictive Madden NFL franchise, and wants to give Hill staffers a chance to get their game on Thursday.

The group has thrown together a “Back to Football” tailgate party taking place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hawk ‘n Dove. (329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Gaming fans just need to give a heads up to to score entrée.

Attendees will be able to demo the new game and are invited to hang afterward to watch “Thursday Night Football.”

Can’t make it tonight?

ESA will be on the Hill Friday morning, sharing its feedback about the job creation power of the video game industry with the E-TECH Caucus. That exchange is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building.

September 11, 2013

Obama to Congress: No Picnic for You!

The 2013 Congressional Picnic is dead for sure. Just when you thought Capitol Hill-White House relations couldn’t get much worse, on Wednesday afternoon, in the news-dump hour of after 5 p.m., President Barack Obama officially killed a chance to hang out in a relaxed setting at the White House.

In a particularly antiseptic notice from the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Congress was informed thusly that its presence at the summer picnic, the tradition of which has stretched back decades, was no longer needed. Perhaps Obama’s trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to talk Syria was all he needed to see of Congress for the time being, and he had no desire to see members of Congress again on Sept. 18.

Nothing says “Happy Summer!” like telling people to buzz off. Here’s the letter, which exudes all the charm of a tax audit notice:

Good evening,

The 2013 Congressional Picnic has been cancelled. The President and Mrs. Obama look forward to welcoming Members of Congress and their immediate families at the Congressional Holiday Ball in December. More details regarding the Congressional Holiday Ball will follow at a later date.

Thank you,

White House Office of Legislative Affairs

By Jason Dick Posted at 6:44 p.m.
DC, POTUS, Reps, Sens, VIPs

House, Senate Go Head-to-Head for Dress for Success Donations

The House and Senate face off on Thursday to see who can provide the most donations for the fourth annual Capitol Hill Dress for Success competition.

Congress is partnering with Dress for Success and FedEx to collect women’s business attire for those women not fortunate enough to have the clothes needed for a professional interview.

Two drop-off locations will accept donations from 7-11 a.m.: Johnny’s Half Shell Take Out at North Capitol Street and Louisiana Avenue for Senate side, and the Capitol Hill Club across from the Capitol South Metro for House side. For more location details, they’ve set up an Eventbrite page.

After the donation period has ended, the chamber with more donations will be declared the winner.

The House has won two of the three previous competitions.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., are the honorary co-chairwomen of the event. In a statement, Ellmers expressed high regard for Dress for Success and encouraged donations.

“As soon as I learned about the work they are doing, I was eager to lend a hand and help encourage my colleagues to participate,” she said. “I’m excited to see the turnout on Thursday and would encourage anyone out there with the ability to donate professional attire to do so and spread the word about this important cause.”

Team Barrasso’s Baby Boom

Is there something in the water over in Sen. John Barrasso’s office?

Team Barrasso’s Baby Boom

(Courtesy John Barrasso’s Office)

The Wyoming Republican has, over the past nine months, welcomed four new members to the club.

The XX chromosome-led crush of next-generation supporters includes (from left): Caroline Bunning, born June 10 to Brad (a Barrasso legislative assistant) and Collette Bunning; Alexandra Moyerman, born March 28 to Shane and Amber (Barrasso’s deputy chief of staff) Moyerman; Lilly Eberle, born December 29 to Jay (another office LA) and Ali Eberle; and, Vivienne Ziegler, born May 28 to Charles (do Barrasso’s LA’s know how to party, or what?) and Cara Ziegler.

As you can see from the photo, the babies are doing great. And Barrasso looks to be just tickled pink about his rapidly expanding professional family.

Whose (Red) Line Is It Anyway? | Capitol Quip

Whose (Red) Line Is It Anyway? | 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:

  • You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out …
  • Who knew we’d be saved by Red Square?
  • So this is what it feels like to play political Russian roulette.
  • I’m not even sure about SHOES on the ground.
  • Is it just me, or is the red line moving around a bit?

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Sept. 15 and in the following day’s print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:20 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Capitol Dance Party Hopes to Shake Things Up

After Wednesday’s solemn 9/11 commemorations, it falls to the organizers of Listen! Dance! Unite! to show people around the Capitol that unity events can have a little flair as well.

“This past year, we hosted a couple of successful nightclub events that were designed to bring together people from different communities and backgrounds under the power of soul-edifying music that gets you on your feet,” said Jordan Wilson, one of the event organizers. “Following our positive experience with these nights, we decided to take the idea to the nation’s capital, where divisive partisanship and bitterness have become somewhat of a plague.”

That decision led to Thursday night’s dance party, which will take place on the West Terrace of the Capitol from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. DJ “Stylus Chris” will spin the tunes for the fiesta, which is free.

“The purpose of the event is to use the power of music and dance to unite people, if only for one evening, on the footsteps of one of the most divided institutions in the country, the United States Congress,” Wilson said, adding, “and the tag line is ‘people over politics’ because it appears that amidst political arguments and debates, too often we lose sight of our shared humanity.”

Another organizer, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, told HOH that, “with the Capitol so divided, it is critical that we start putting ‘people over politics’ and start building personal relationships.”

‘Presidents’ Gatekeepers’ Puts POTUS Minding in Perspective

A good deal of the “The Presidents’ Gatekeepers,” a documentary-style look at the stiflingly high-pressure world White House chiefs of staff inhabit while serving as POTUS’ right-hand guy, is dedicated to the somber reflections and gut-wrenching decisions administration aides had to help make during America’s darkest hours.

‘Presidents’ Gatekeepers’ Puts POTUS Minding in Perspective

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Luckily, spirits were much higher (open bars always help) at Tuesday’s preview party.

The two-part series, airing at 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on the Discovery Channel, features candid discussions with the 20 living ex-presidential confidants, as well as commentary from Presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter.

The screener focused on some of the most harrowing moments in recent history, taking the participants back in time to expound on their roles during trying times such as the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, the atrocities of 9/11 and the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

In the film, Andrew Card says he was as stunned as everyone else by the back-to-back assaults on the World Trade Center towers. But the aide to President George W. Bush insists he deliberately opted against causing a scene during the fateful morning “Dubya” was shown reading to schoolchildren in a Florida classroom.

According to Card, he leaned in, whispered, “America is under attack” to the visibly rattled Bush and then withdrew so 43 couldn’t engage him further.

“It wasn’t the place to have a conversation,” Card said. Full story

Brad Wenstrup Prepares for First Child

Freshman Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, will soon welcome a new member to the family.

Wenstrup and his wife, Monica, are expecting their first child in November, although they do not know whether it is a boy or a girl.

“We are not checking,” Wenstrup told HOH. “We’re going to wait to be surprised; we just hope for a healthy baby. We also have picked names, but we’re not telling people; we have a boy’s name and a girl’s name picked out, so we’ll know right away the day the baby’s born.”

Wenstrup, who married Monica in May 2012, said he is excited to be a father. Full story

Sanford Steps Out With Fiancee at CNN Party

Sanford Steps Out With Fiancee at CNN Party

(Courtesy CNN public relations)

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., walked the red carpet at CNN’s “Crossfire” launch party in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night with his fiancee, Maria Belén Chapur, on his arm.

Chapur, memorably, is the woman who was at the center of his 2009 extramarital affair when he was governor.

But Sanford and Chapur were only two of the attendees of the A-list party.

Republican Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho and Democrats Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also made the rounds. Former Sen. Rick Santorum stopped by after taping an appearance on the show’s second episode Tuesday evening.

Caroline Kennedy, Greta Van Susteren and Laura Ingraham were also among the well-known attendees at the swanky celebration at the Carnegie Library.

“CNN has its swagger back,” as one network executive put it to HOH.

CNN President Jeff Zucker told the Capitol Hill-centric crowd that when he was named head of the company late last year, he had two priorities: to bring back actor James Earl Jones’ marketing voice-overs and to resurrect the debate show.

Full story

September 10, 2013

Justin Amash’s Magical Twitter Rants

Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash became seriously disillusioned Tuesday — warning his social-media flock not once, not twice, but thrice about the procedural sleight of hand designed to blunt President Barack Obama’s looming health care expansion.

The tea party favorite became possessed with the idea of raising the alarm before lunch, broadcasting this cryptic warning amid a slew of anti-Syria missives:


That set the stage for a full-fledged attack on party leaders:


Amash closed the nowhere-near-secret circle with a nod to his pop culture muses:

No word on whether Twitter fans were spellbound by his appeals.

Next time, he should consider strapping on a prosthetic schnoz and choreograph a catchy song-and-dance number.

Believe It or Not! Heritage Goes Times Square

The engagement gurus at the Heritage Foundation are going for marketing gold in the race to cripple President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul, sounding interactive alarms against government-sponsored coverage on a towering new Times Square billboard.

Heritage strategist Genevieve Wood said the eye-catching advertisement — public relations analysts estimate that the mammoth marketing tools reach around 1.8 million passers-by each day and rake in millions of dollars in revenue from exposure-hungry organizations each year — is expected to go up Tuesday and should stay up for a month after.

“It’s not just for politicians. We want the American public to see it,” Wood told HOH of the rationale behind proselytizing in NYC instead of, say, administration-driven D.C.

The ad urges viewers to text “hazard” to a special number (33733) — attendees at a tea-party-led gathering on Capitol Hill received similar marching orders, though their password was “rally” — which triggers an auto-reply directing them to Heritage’s companion video:

Full story

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