Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 1, 2014

August 12, 2013

Capitol Bells Toll for Transparency

Perhaps missing the House bells he grew accustomed to while working for Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., Ted Henderson started Capitol Bells, an iPhone app that lets users know when House votes are happening and allows them to “vote” in real time with their representative.

The app initially launched in April for members of Congress and their staffs to keep everyone in tune with which votes were happening and when.

Recently, Henderson updated the app, making it available to everyone with an iPhone.

“There has always been a disconnect between the public and Congress,” said Henderson. “This app is trying to make them a part of the process.”

The user chooses his or her district and the bill that is being considered. The user can then vote and the app shows all the voting scores — yea, nay, present, not voting. There’s also the buzzer to remind you time is almost up.

“Congress is there to serve the people, and this is a way for people to express your opinion without just calling the press office, registering your sentiment and not knowing what the outcome of the vote is anyway,” Henderson said.

With this app, representatives will be able to gauge exactly how well they’re representing their most engaged constituents by looking at differences in the past 20 or 30 votes.

The project is far from complete; Henderson hopes to port it to Android by Sept. 9,when Congress is scheduled to be back in session. Windows and a website widget are other platforms Henderson hopes to offer Capitol Bells on in the near future.

After that, he hopes that with more crowdsourcing, he can add tools such as comparing a user’s and representative’s votes, how often the House member votes and whether the votes are in line with the district’s voters/users.

Henderson also plans ambitious updates to include a feature that will allow users to search legislation and promote bills they want their representative to support.

This could start a new public discourse, hashtagging the bill on Twitter alone would pull people in who might not otherwise be tuned in to C-SPAN.

ESPN Profiles Fantasy Softball Winner Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is the subject of a new ESPN profile, and it delves into her passion for sports.

ESPN Profiles Fantasy Softball Winner Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand helped lead the members’ softball team. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bonnie Bernstein interviewed Gillibrand for her ESPNw series about famous women who played sports growing up. In the interview, Gillibrand discussed playing tennis growing up and her collegiate career with The Big Green at Dartmouth — where she started playing junior varsity tennis and eventually shifted to squash.

“I had a very strong backhand. Serve was strong. Net game was strong. Fairly aggressive player,” she self-analyzed. “My forehand was always my weakest. Unreliable at a times, but I love tennis.”

Gillibrand also spoke of her admiration for tennis legend Martina Navratilova, her interest in running and her well-documented weight loss.

The video includes footage of Gillibrand knocking a hit back a pitch from Yours Truly in the 2012 Congressional Women’s Softball game that raises money for a breast cancer charity.

For the Washington, D.C., community, Gillibrand’s athletic prowess is well-known. Gillibrand was the most-selected ballplayer in CQ Roll Call’s Fantasy Softball competition in the lead-up to the 2013 Congressional Women’s Softball game. She lived up to the hype, hitting two doubles and tied with NBC’s Kasie Hunt as the top RBI-getter in the game.

August 11, 2013

A Visit to Sequester Beach | Capitol Quip

A Visit to Sequester Beach | 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. And check out our past winners on Pinterest.

A Stubborn Political Problem | Capitol Quip

A Stubborn Political Problem | Capitol Quip

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently visited Egypt to survey the political situation there after a military-backed takeover of the government displaced President Mohamed Morsi.

McCain and Graham encouraged the leaders of Egypt’s interim government to release political prisoners associated with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and to broaden political talks as they look to bridge the gap between the interim government and Morsi’s supporters, who aren’t too happy he was toppled.

So how do you think their dynamic duo congressional delegation went? Let us know what you think by sending us a 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.

August 9, 2013

With J.J. Going Into Exile, Georgetown Students Want Another Bulldog

First he lost his job. Now he’s losing his home.

J.J., the bulldog mascot for Georgetown University, was “retired” last month, part of a settlement agreement with two parents whose child was bitten by the dog. Then on Thursday, Rev. Christopher Steck, one of J.J.s’ handlers on the campus, announced he was looking for a local family to adopt the bulldog.

With J.J. going into exile, students want to make sure they won’t be losing out on having a live mascot for too long.

Since the 1960s, Georgetown University has had a live mascot, each making his own mark in campus life.

On March 30, 2012, Georgetown announced the donation of a new bulldog puppy “Jack Junior” from San Diego breeders Janice and Marcus Hochstetler, whose children were attending the university. Things didn’t work out for J.J., but there is still a desire among students to have a canine represent the school.

With J.J. Going Into Exile, Georgetown Students Want Another Bulldog

Photo Courtesy of Georgetown University.

Since the July announcement of J.J.’s retirement a  Change.org petition has been created to ensure another live mascot will be chosen. It is supported by Georgetown University Student Association and Hoya Blue.

The petition was posted by the head of the Jack Crew, Nevada Schadler, and already has 342 supporters. The petition asks the university to consider students’ perspectives and ensure that a live mascot will continue to live on campus. The petition has worldwide reach and has gotten signatures from Hoya alumini in Switzerland, Peru, Turkey and the United States.

Hoya Blue, the official student spirit organization, stated on its Facebook page that “Hoya Blue played an integral part in bringing Jack back to campus in the late 90s and we will continue to fight to ensure that this tradition continues for Generations to Come.”

Scott Brown’s ‘Estranged Half Brother’ Arrested for Impersonating Cop

Former Sen. Scott P. Brown’s “estranged half brother” has been charged in Connecticut with impersonating a police officer after authorities say he stopped boaters.

Police say 46-year-old Bruce W. Browne of Wolcott, Conn., stopped three vessels on Long Island Sound on Thursday and asked boaters for their registrations and safety certificates after identifying himself as a police officer.

According to the state police report, after confronting Browne at Point O’ Woods Beach in Old Lyme, police searched his 2004 Crown Victoria and found three loaded 9 mm pistols, a black nylon duty belt with two sets of handcuffs, an expandable baton and 12 fully loaded magazines with a total of 101 hollow point and 102 ball-style 9 mm bullets. Browne also had a bullet-proof vest with the word “police” embroidered on the front and back. Attached to the front was a “silver metal TSA badge.”

The full summary of the incident can be found here.

The former Massachusetts Republican senator released a statement on his Facebook page that only added to the bizarreness of the situation. “For those of you who are asking about the news reports on my estranged half brother, I only know as much as you. I read about it in the news this morning. As you many of you know, my mom and my late father were married and divorced 4 times each. Unfortunately, we were not close as a family. These are serious charges and he will need to answer them. I feel badly for his children and I am thankful that no one was injured,” the statement read.

Browne was charged with impersonating a police officer, breach of peace, interfering with a police officer and possession of a dangerous weapon in a vehicle. Additional charges may be forthcoming as the U.S. Coast Guard is looking at Browne in relation to previous incidents similar to the situation that allegedly transpired in Old Lyme.

Browne was arrested and released on Thursday after posting a $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in district court in New London, Conn., on Aug. 22.

August 8, 2013

Team McConnell Turns Its Nose Up at Bad Press

Following a major stumble by Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who revealed in a phone call that he’s effectively “holding his nose” while in reality laying the groundwork for Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid, McConnell attempted to flip the script and have some fun with the rotten news.

Team McConnell Turns Its Nose Up at Bad Press

(Courtesy Mitch McConnell)

The spoof “reaction” features McConnell and Benton cracking wise about the real stinker in all this being that troublesome law the GOP loves to deride as “Obamacare.”

McConnell racked up more than 1,000 “likes” for the gag photo — but also opened himself up to online roasting by irate detractors:

Team McConnell Turns Its Nose Up at Bad Press

(Screenshot)

Full story

Chicago Bookends Obama’s Presidential Medals of Freedom

Did President Barack Obama consult some Chicago insiders (Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Political mastermind David Axelrod?) when drafting up his list of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients?

Topping the White House’s list of 16 individuals receiving the nation’s highest civilian honor, which was announced today, is Second City sports hero Ernie Banks, known to many as “Mr. Cub” after 19 seasons of running the bases in Wrigley Field. At least Obama didn’t give the nod to a player from his favorite Chicago team. The president, a South Sider, is a White Sox fan.

Rounding out the White House release was Chicago media queen Oprah Winfrey, who established herself as a daytime television powerhouse on the city’s airwaves. She opened Harpo Studios for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on the Near West Side during the show’s 24-season reign. The White House recognized her philanthropic passions and humanitarian work (not the mass distribution of prizes and cars to audience members) in awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We think Mayor Rahm, the president’s former chief of staff, and Axelrod, an ex-Chicago Tribune journalist and 2012 campaign veteran, would both be big fans of his picks. Is this enough evidence to formulate a Chicago conspiracy?

The Cure for Sequesteritis? The President’s SAVE Award!

Here’s something for federal employees to ponder in the age of the sequester.

The Friday deadline to submit ideas for the annual Securing Americans Value and Efficiency Award, is fast approaching.

The SAVE award is a contest created by President Barack Obama in 2009, seeking creative ideas from federal employees to help cut the budget, ensure tax payers dollars are spent wisely and improve the way government operates.

The judging criteria focuses on several key points:

  • Improving the quality of output at lower costs; or
  • Simplifying processes to reduce administrative burden; or
  • Improving the speed of government operations to improve efficiency

Only federal employees can submit ideas, and those who plan to submit their ideas must use their federal email address to have a proposal considered. Those who don’t have an idea to submit can still participate — the website is set up like a forum, where you can vote on, agree with or comment on already posted ideas.

According to the White House website, ideas are sent to the relevant agencies to review for potential action, including inclusion in the budget. Over the past four years, more than 85,000 ideas have been submitted and so far approximately 80 have been included in the administration’s budget proposals.

Perhaps this is something for those folks who are taking a sequester-mandated furlough day to work on?

By Diana Oberoi Posted at 2:08 p.m.
Nationwide, POTUS

August 7, 2013

The Gospel According to Steve Stockman

In one of those rare occasions when he (and his staff) were not totally consumed with flat out busting President Barack Obama’s chops, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, decided to drop a little science on his Twitter flock on Wednesday.

The Gospel According to Steve Stockman

(Screenshot)

The outspoken Texas Republican — which is to say his type-happy spokesman Donny Ferguson — took to social media to debunk that pesky old world hunger myth, pinning the “problem” not on  production issues but on lackluster market opportunities. (Dear starving people: it’s not that you’re life-threateningly poor, it’s that supply-side economists haven’t quite gotten to you — yet.)

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., apparently couldn’t resist twisting Stockman’s philosophic statement into a teachable moment.

The Gospel According to Steve Stockman

(Screenshot)

We have no doubt there’s plenty of red meat here for fiscal junkies to sink their teeth into.

But even us non-accounting types know a delicious Twitter fight when we see one.

Five Captions for Recess | Capitol Quip

Five Captions for Recess | 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:

  • I just don’t have the heart to tell him that the beach is closed because of sequester.
  • Well, at least the motion to adjourn got bipartisan support.
  • Once you get over the overwhelming public disgust — it’s a pretty sweet gig.
  • Last one in the pool is a hardworking congressman!!
  • Well, they say congressmen are dressing more casually these days.

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Aug. 11 and in the following 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 4:10 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Goat Stage Fright at Congressional Cemetery

Goat Stage Fright at Congressional Cemetery

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

“They were a little intimidated by it.”

— Brian Knox, supervising forester for Eco-Goats, referring to the reaction of his herd of grazers to the dozens of onlookers and press people at Congressional Cemetery this morning. The cemetery has employed Eco-Goats to graze the invasive species that choke the perimeter of the historic grounds.

August 6, 2013

Immigration Cantaloupes Were Donated to Food Bank

When you work for a man who impersonates Santa Claus, you’re bound to have some generous ideas.

It was a staffer in the office of Old Fashion Santa & Co. proprietor and freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., who suggested re-gifting some politically charged cantaloupes to a local D.C. food bank last week.

Of the 224 melons delivered to Capitol Hill by immigration activists as a gag gift on Aug. 1, 96 made it to the Capitol Area Food Bank.

“It took one minivan and four people,” Bentivolio Communications Director Matt Chisholm told HOH.

The donation, first reported by the Washington Examiner, weighed in at 350 pounds.

Page Crosland, communications director for the Capitol Area Food Bank, said the fresh produce was then distributed to “some very luck families out there.” She emphasized that the food bank is nonpartisan and does not like to insert itself in partisan news stories.

Group Kicks Off ‘Fishy’ Tour

Wondering what the parade of frankenfood was doing traipsing through the streets of Washington on Monday night?

Are We Eating Fishy Food’s tour kicked off on the National Mall on an 11 city-tour to make the case that the public deserves to know when they are eating food with genetically modified organisms.

Group Kicks Off Fishy Tour

(Screenshot)

César Maxit and DC51, an artist collective in Washington, D.C., designed the first of the fishy fleet of cars in 2011. The first car was FishyCorn aka “Poppy.” In January 2013, Maxit designed five more cars including “Goldie” the SharkApple, and “Soyna” the soybean seahorse.

Sixty-four countries require labeling of GMOs, but in the U.S. and Canada, GMO items are commonly found in the grocery store without a label.

Activists behind Are We Eating Fishy Food want companies to provide full disclosure on what makes up our food. On their website, they proclaim, “There is something fishy about GMOs, aka Genetically Modified Organisms, plants or animals which have been genetically altered and would not occur naturally despite what biotech companies claim.”

The group maintains that in this case, labels matter. They want the public to have a right to choose whether they want to buy and eat genetically engineered food.

The tour wraps up in Seattle on Aug. 14th at the Rally for Right to Know.

Philanthropub Needs Charity, New Air Conditioner

Prepay for a cocktail and support a local business. Yes, prepay … and no, it’s not what you’re probably thinking.

Cause, the world’s first “philanthropub” opened last October with the premise “you eat, drink, and be merry, we pay all our bills, and we donate 100% of net profits to charities.” Its charitable donations rotate between different local and international organizations. One Acre FundYear Up and Life Pieces to Masterpieces are on the current receiving list. So, where does the prepaying and drinking come in?

Recently, Cause’s air conditioner unit went on the fritz. Instead of dipping into its own funds and cutting down on the amount of money it can give to its charities, it asked for the public’s support. The philanthropub has an Indiegogo campaign seeking $11,000 to purchase a new air conditioning system. With a little more than a day left in its campaign, Cause is still $10,184 short of its goal.

It’s an exchange, really. Typically when you donate or give a handout, you get nothing in return. Cause plans to give you something in return if you donate to its, well, Cause!

Give $11, and your next drink is on Cause. If you factor in classic cocktails that are $10, you’re essentially prepaying for a drink. Oh, and, please, 21 and over only for this.

For $20, the generous get an “I Drink CAUSE I Care” T-shirt. For $109, it’s dinner and drinks for four — two drinks each, two shareable appetizers and main course of choice. Want a cocktail party for you and nine of your friends? Hand over $500 and that’s what you’ll get!

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