Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
May 4, 2015

January 15, 2014

Welcome Back, You Crazy Kids!

The second session of the 113th Congress is now fully under way.

And while we’re happy for the steady stream of fresh content, the truth is, it is an election year. So who knows how much time we have with the following striking personalities once the legislative wheels come careening off.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Welcome Back, You Crazy Kids!

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Folk hero? Conniving villain? Canadian?



We prefer to think of Cruz as the Senate’s wildest card. Full story

Overheard: Klobuchar Quizzes Law School Profs

“I first want to note for the record that two of the witnesses were my law professors. Professor Stone taught evidence and Professor Sunstein was my administrative law professor. And they both were fans of the Socratic method, so this is my revenge.”

— Sen. Amy Klobuchar prepares to put the screws to her past during a serendipitous Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Scoring Points With the Capitol Hill Fox

As most social media users can attest, virtually everyone and their grandmother here in D.C. is now on the lookout for the Capitol Hill Fox.



Not that pining to see the auburn-colored adventurer necessarily equates to enjoying an audience with the media darling. (Dry those tears, Liz. We know you’ll get your chance one day!)

Of course, there are ways to draw out God’s creatures. In fact, Steve Hofman believes it’s even possible to befriend frequent feral visitors.

The former House staffer didn’t mention having to deal with any wild animals (political or otherwise) during his days working for the GOP leadership. But he struck up a rather interesting acquaintance after moving out west.

Scoring Points With the Capitol Hill Fox

(Courtesy Steve Hofman)

“My wife and I had our own pet fox, Junior, who visited our home in Colorado at least twice a day,” the Steamboat Springs resident told HOH.

“Junior,” Hofman explained, was never fully domesticated (continued living in the wild), but did grow quite comfortable with the family.

“He would walk up my driveway with me in getting our morning paper, sit at my feet on our front porch, and take food out of my hand. And, oh yes, entertain all our visitors, particularly those from the East who never saw a fox they didn’t run from,” Hofman said of the rapport they developed over time. Full story

January 14, 2014

Marilu Henner Serves Congress Some Food for Thought

Author and organic dining advocate Marilu Henner will join the members of the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association on Wednesday for some frank talk about what we should and should not be putting into our bodies in 2014.

Marilu Henner Serves Congress Some Food for Thought

(Courtesy Robert Sebree)

Henner and vegan cookbook author Kathy Freston will tag-team a policy luncheon scheduled to take place from noon to 2 p.m. in room HVC 201 of the Capitol Visitor Center. The event, which will feature complimentary vegan tacos from Ape Man Foods and cupcakes from Sticky Fingers bakery, is open to all Hill staff and interns.

The duo had originally planned to commune with congressional vegans last fall, but things got derailed by the government shutdown.

Henner is no stranger to Washington, having testified before Congress on more than a half-dozen occasions to date. She’s weighed in on topics ranging from nutritional standards to deadbeat parents — including a 2004 effort to reshape the ever-evolving, administration-designed food pyramid.

Were she ultimately calling the shots, Henner might push pet projects such as augmenting food labeling and including hydration in dietary guidelines. For now, she’s most interested in having people swear off the “extreme flavors” that sway day-to-day dining decisions.

“We have to get away from processed foods,” Henner warned HOH, labeling excess fats, salt and sugar as the root causes of rampant unhealthiness. “We know that something is wrong. You just have to look around, America. We are stuffing our faces but starving our bodies.”

Henner said she’s been practicing mindful eating for more than three decades — “It was a Wednesday,” the memory maven quipped about her “health” birthday (Aug. 15, 1979) — adhering to a strict regimen of nourishing and natural foods.

“A plant-based diet is really where it’s at,” she told HOH, noting that eating organically helped her shed 54 pounds and trim her cholesterol by 100 points.

Furthermore, she challenged lawmakers to quit kowtowing to animal product peddlers (cattleman’s lobby, dairy farmers) and get with the times.

“I want Congress to catch up with the people,” she said of the groundswell of support for everything from meticulous monitoring of genetically modified organisms to just plain smarter eating. “There is a tsunami of health you cannot stop.”

Capitalizing on Capitol Hill Fox

Back when we began chronicling the adventures of the local legend now known as Capitol Hill Fox, the pointy-eared wonder was still scurrying into bushes to avoid prying eyes.

What a difference a week makes.

These days, the CHF is clearly living out loud — posing for pics at will and even performing for tourists who visited the Capitol this weekend.

An Architect of the Capitol aide said crew members encountered the camera-loving critter early Tuesday morning while making their rounds on the West Front. “It’s not our first sighting, but it is our first photo,” the administrative aide said, adding that groundskeepers described the animal as “docile” and felt it “looked healthy.”

It’s clear the CHF is here to stay.

In fact, our friends at DCist attempted to reverse-engineer its origin story, positing that the imagination-capturing interloper may, in fact, be the same wily character that feasted on first lady Michelle Obama’s untended kitchen garden during last year’s government shutdown.

We’re less concerned with where it came from than what to do with it now that the local community has obviously embraced it.

Here are a couple of win-win scenarios to consider:

BFF Camp

Have congressional aide Andrew Aydin bring his beloved pooch, Delilah, to work.

Capitalizing on Capitol Hill Fox

(Courtesy Andrew Aydin)

Walk the dog around until she either sniffs out the CHF or the CHF comes bounding out for its daily photo op.

Release Delilah and let the Disney magic ensue. Full story

Sean Patrick Maloney Ready to Tie the Knot With Randy Florke

Sean Patrick Maloney Ready to Tie the Knot With Randy Florke

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After spending the past two decades together — and raising three children in the interim — there’s only one thing left for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and his longtime partner, Randy Florke, to do: make everything official.

The New York Democrat formally announced his engagement to Florke late Monday night, ushering forth a new chapter in their closely intertwined life stories.

“After 21 years together, we are excited for the next step in our journey as a family,” Maloney and Florke declared in a joint statement. “For decades, we’ve fought to ensure that all families can experience the joys of loving commitment and we are proud to have our friends and family share this special moment with us in the near future.”

New York adopted a law allowing same-sex unions in 2011.

According to various media reports, Florke popped the question on Christmas Day. A Maloney aide said the pair is still ironing out the specifics (“No date or location announced yet,” Team Maloney assured HOH), but congressional colleagues are already champing at the bit for details.




January 13, 2014

Arena Stage Fetes Marcia Fudge

Arena Stage plans to honor Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, on Thursday with a multi-tiered shindig featuring a VIP cocktail hour, seated dinner, opening night performance and post-play dessert reception.

Arena Stage Fetes Marcia Fudge

Fudge will be honored by Arena Stage for her support of the arts. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The local theater (1101 Sixth St. SW) plans to bestow its annual American Voice Award upon the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in recognition of her unwavering support for the arts. Politicos who have previously received the award include: Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.; Virginia Democratic Rep. James P. Moran; ex-Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and  Tom Davis, R-Va.; Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and late lawmakers Robert Matsui, D-Calif., and Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii.

According to an Arena Stage aide, Fudge — who also happens to live in the neighborhood — is being commemorated for her contributions to the Arts and Rock and Roll caucuses, as well as her support for the Congressional Art Competition. And while she does not spend too much time in the actual theater (“Congresswoman Fudge does not regularly attend performances at Arena Stage,” our tipster said), the organization is looking forward to welcoming politically connected well-wishers to the party.

Per theater staff, Arena Stage regular and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to be on hand for the festivities, as are Fudge’s Democratic House colleagues Corinne Brown of Florida, Steven Horsford of Nevada, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, John Lewis of Georgia, Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands, Donald M. Payne Jr. of New Jersey, Robin Kelly of Illinois and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Moran.

Actress Kathleen Turner, who is starring in Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children” this season at Arena Stage, will also be honored that evening; she’ll be receiving the American Artist Award.

Capitol Hill Fox: On the Hunt

Not only were there a plethora of Capitol Hill Fox sightings over the weekend, but our crowd-pleasing pal even sprang into action.



Evan Gildenblatt, a Kent State University alumnus, live-tweeted the latest CHF chronicles after spotting the fearless furball sunning itself on the lawn in front of the Capitol.

No longer satisfied with merely being an object of adulation, the CHF apparently decided to strike a little fear into the hearts of local admirers by savagely dispatching a too-slow squirrel.  “He put on a helluva of a show, … an old-fashioned safari-style kill,” the awestruck observer shared via Twitter.

Gildenblatt, who witnessed the chase and capture from start to finish, told HOH the brutal display happened right around 4:45 p.m. — prime time for visitors snapping pictures of the glowing Capitol just as the sun retreated beneath the horizon. Full story

Schumer Seeks New Alpha After Miller Calls It Quits

After learning that the guy who’s kept a roof over his head in D.C. for years —  Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. — will be stepping down at the end of this Congress, Sen. Charles E. Schumer wasted no time recruiting a new roomie.


The New York Democrat, one of the inhabitants of the group house that inspired the satirical Web series “Alpha House,” tweeted out his desire to bunk with another long-standing lawmaker who also appreciates the creature comforts.

No word yet on how Miller’s retirement will affect his colleagues’ living arrangements here in the District.

January 12, 2014

Old Congressional Hubbard | Capitol Quip

Old Congressional Hubbard | Capitol Quip

As the economy continues to send mixed messages (Unemployment is down! Yea! But only because people gave up looking for work! Boo!), what’s a Congress to do when it comes to extending long-term unemployment benefits? This brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip.

Send us a caption for this week’s contest by leaving it in the comments section. Editors will pick five finalists on Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner through Thursday.

To see our previous winners, check us out on Pinterest.

By Jason Dick Posted at 7:05 p.m.
Capitol Quip

A Concurrent Resolution for the New Year | Capitol Quip

A Concurrent Resolution for the New Year | 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.

January 10, 2014

POTUS Crashed My Leisurely Lunch

One minute you’re stuffing your face with a burrito, and the next the Secret Service is snooping through your bags and subjecting you to a full body scan.

POTUS Crashed My Leisurely Lunch

(John Gramlich/CQ Roll Call)

This is what happens when the president decides to chow down at the same D.C. restaurant as you.

So it went on Friday afternoon, when President Barack Obama trekked up to The Coupe in Columbia Heights for a policy luncheon at the 24-hour diner.

Patrons (this reporter included) were tipped off that someone notable was en route when an army of suits and earpieces showed up to sweep the place. The bomb-sniffing dog quickly changed the focus of everyone’s VIP theory from singer Chris Brown, who was in town for his arraignment earlier in the week, to either POTUS or FLOTUS.

Obama strode in a few minutes later and worked his way around the diner, shaking hands and making small talk with the 50 or so customers in the place.

POTUS Crashed My Leisurely Lunch

(John Gramlich/CQ Roll Call)

Lest anyone think the infant-kissing stops when you’re a lame duck, he also picked up some babies — one of whom daringly played with 44’s face. Another baby appeared to be having a bad hair day, prompting Obama to jokingly compare the windswept child to coiffure kingpin Donald Trump.

According to the White House, the purpose of the president’s visit was to dine with five young people “who are spearheading creative outreach efforts to connect with and help enroll young consumers” in coverage expanded by the Affordable Care Act.

POTUS Crashed My Leisurely Lunch

(John Gramlich/CQ Roll Call)

The group huddled together for about an hour, just five feet away from your Columbia Heights pooler, with Obama wearing shirtsleeves and ordering what appeared to be the Coupe Burger — accompanied by sauteed spinach as well as a side of hot-sauce-laced onion rings — drinking iced tea and eventually paying for the meal with a credit card.

No word on the generosity of the president’s tip.

Football Breeds Bipartisanship, Betting

Bipartisanship is in the air, at least when it comes to the National Football League. It’s not uncommon to see fans of college and professional sports in Congress wager their states’ wares and fares over the outcome of contests, but this week has produced some nice examples of bipartisan bonhomie over the gridiron.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is a fierce partisan warrior, but she and Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., have a cross-the-aisle bet on the outcome of Sunday’s Carolina Panthers-San Francisco 49ers divisional playoff game in Charlotte, N.C.

What’s on the line? Full story

The Coal War Chronicles | Madisonville

Finally. A war that Republicans think the Obama administration is waging effectively. Most Americans won’t have noticed the War on Coal, but the House Natural Resources Committee got together on Thursday to tut-tut about the president’s ruthless treatment of the enemy.

The Coal War Chronicles | MadisonvilleTut-tut may overstate members’ engagement in this hearing.  Chairman Doc Hastings from Washington and ranking member Peter A. DeFazio from Oregon were about as excitable as two doctors delivering babies and treating horse-kickings in a rural medical practice, circa 1955. Hastings and DeFazio also happen to look like two country doctors, circa 1955. Doc Hastings is the sterner, round-faced one. Doc DeFazio is the younger, smiling one. Doc DeFazio also gives the impression that he’s disappearing beneath his collar.

The committee brought in Robert Knox, an assistant inspector general for investigations who’s been looking into the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement at the Department of the Interior.  The Surface Mining people’s alleged War on Coal crime was to pressure a contractor to play down the number of jobs that would be lost because of a proposed regulation and then to fire the contractor for refusing to do so.

Republicans put more than twice as many soldiers on this battlefield as the Democrats, but it didn’t do much good.  Inspectors general aren’t very good witnesses. Members of Congress try to provoke them into comments that have nothing to do with the investigation, but Inspector General 101 class teaches them to avoid such elementary traps.

Knox said the contractor wasn’t fired, that reasonable explanations were available for the estimated jobs impact of the regulation, and that nobody applied any political pressure.  Republican forces’ morale sank. They couldn’t yield their time fast enough. Outnumbering the enemy by more than 2-to-1 doesn’t help if you’re unarmed.

North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer lifted the Republicans’ spirits briefly when he disclosed that he spent 10 years as his state’s coal-mining regulator.  Cramer’s website, by the way, says he has a doctorate in leadership. Doctor Leader Cramer, coal warrior. The Republicans must have felt like orcs watching Lurtz move into battle. But Cramer disappointed, focusing on an Interior Department employee that the inspector general discovered had made a smart-aleck comment about rule-making and the real world being different things.

The Democrats didn’t fare much better, but they didn’t have to. Doc DeFazio tried to yield his opening statement time only to discover his Democratic colleagues didn’t want it. New Jersey’s Rush D. Holt finally agreed and stammered something out.

The good news is that this coal war crime revolved around an estimated loss of 7,000 jobs and the wasted $3.7 million paid to a contractor said to have done an unsatisfactory job.  No zeros are missing in those numbers. You’d expect a couple of small-town doctors to pay attention to the little things.

Trey Radel Wanders Away From the Web

Back before he got pinched for cocaine possession, Rep. Trey Radel would light up his various social media channels several times a day with snarky observations, behind-the-congressional-scenes videos and quirky selfies.

Trey Radel Wanders Away From the Web

Trey Radel)" src="" width="445" height="445" /> (Courtesy Trey Radel)

These days, his mind appears to be elsewhere.

Having recently returned to Congress after a brief stint in rehab, the Florida Republican has pretty much clammed up across the board. He has not shared anything on Facebook since blasting out his combo mea culpa/back-to-work statement on Dec. 29.

And Radel’s once robust Twitter feed boasts just three posts since a Dupont Circle drug buy blew up in his face back in November. Full story

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