Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
May 30, 2015

December 10, 2013

Menendez Pops the Question in Capitol Rotunda

New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez proposed to his girlfriend Monday in the Capitol, then whisked his betrothed away to the White House to celebrate at the annual holiday ball.

As first reported by Politico’s Mike Allen, the previously divorced pol asked Alicia Mucci — identified by the New Jersey Star-Ledger as a 45-year-old real estate agent who lives in Paramus — to join him in matrimony during a visit to the Capitol Rotunda. Some CQ Roll Call colleagues reported asking a tuxedo-clad Menendez what he was up to on Monday night, but they said the senior senator from the Garden State dashed away without comment.

Menendez’s office did not respond to multiple email inquires regarding further details about the pending nuptials, but Menendez did thank well-wishers via social media:


Fictional Franchise: Christmas Edition

In the latest installment of the Roll Call series that examines fictional characters and who represents them in Congress, we look at our favorite Christmas characters.

The rules for Fictional Franchise go like this: We decide where a fictional character lives and then look up who represents them in the House. (See more here.)

George Bailey (James Stewart)
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
Bedford Falls, N.Y.
Republican Rep. Tom Reed

Seneca Falls makes a pretty good case that the upstate New York town is the “real” Bedford Falls.

And so Seneca Falls is not just the birthplace of the women’s rights movement, it’s where Clarence earned his wings and George Bailey lassoed the moon and his future wife, Mary.

Atta boys.


Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase)
“Christmas Vacation”
Shermer, Ill.
Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider

“Christmas Vacation” is part of writer/director John Hughes’ 1980s anthology of life in suburban Chicago. He based his movies in a town called “Shermer.” Hughes spent his high-school years in the Chicago suburb Northbrook, which was originally called “Shermerville.”

Geography aside, “Christmas Vacation” also functions as a public service announcement against the dangers of using a storm drain as a depository for recreational vehicle sewage.


Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) 
Upper West Side, New York City
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Buddy the Elf moves into the Central Park West apartment of his biological father, children’s book publisher Walter Hobbs, according to several blogs.

And Holy Zuul! Does this building have history!

The building is more famously known as “The Ghostbusters” building (an issue that will almost certainly be revisited in this series) and it was the subject of a 1999 New York Times profile.

But Buddy has connections to another New York City district.  He commutes to work at Gimbell’s and in the mailroom of the Empire State Building in Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney’s 12th District on the east side of Manhattan.

But for voting purposes, Buddy is a Nadler man. Nadler is a Fictional Franchise favorite, as his 10th District is home to Peggy Olson and Joan Harris of “Mad Men,Alex Forrest of “Fatal Attraction” and Peter Warren Hatcher of the Judy Blume novels.


Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn)
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
Great Neck, N.Y.
Democratic Rep. Steve Israel

Friend of Roll Call/Long Island native/Hotline Editor-in-Chief Steve Shepard weighed in with this analysis.

Per Shepard: “Just a stone’s throw from the Empire State Building is Macy’s Herald Square location, situated on the western edge of Maloney’s district. But in the film, Kris Kringle actually lived at the fictional Brooks Memorial Home for the Aged in Great Neck, N.Y., on Long Island. That makes Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Santa’s congressman. And presumably Israel would also represent the bucolic suburban home for which Natalie Wood asked Santa.”

It should be noted that Great Neck is also home to Jay Gatsby and Israel’s 3rd District hosts Tony Miglione of Blume’s “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.”

We believe.


Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) 
“A Christmas Story”
Hohman, Ind.
Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky

Writer Jean Shepherd set “A Christmas Story” in Hohman, which is a stand-in name for his hometown of Hammond, Ind.

Even so, the house used in filming is located in Ohio’s 11th. Democratic Rep. Marcia L. Fudge represents that district that is also home to Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.


Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin)
“Home Alone”
Winnetka, Ill.
Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky

All sorts of crazy went down over one Christmas break in Illinois’ 9th District. The owners of the “Silver Tuna” McCallister household accidentally left their 8-year-old son at home unsupervised as a crime wave involving a pair of burglars named “The Wet Bandits” hit the neighborhood.

Like other John Hughes films, this one is set in the North Shore suburbs. Schakowsky’s 9th District and Schneider’s 10th District bisect the region. The movie was shot in an actual house in the area that is well-documented on YouTube and various blogs. The McCallister house is an identifiable site in the neighborhood and Kevin, like Regina George of “Mean Girls,” is most definitely a Schakowsky constituent.

We love the Internet:


Rudolph T. Reindeer 
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Christmastown, Alaska
Republican Rep. Don Young

We interpret “Christmastown” to be North Pole, Alaska.

Christmastown is a deceptively cheerful name for the fictional village. Just about everyone in Christmastown, from Santa down to the reindeer calves, exhibits deplorable behavior and discriminates against Rudolph for what they perceive to be a birth defect.

It’s one thing for children to pick on somebody, but where were the adults in Christmastown? Comet? Rudolph’s own father, Donner? Santa?!?

Oh, they were there, bullying Rudolph right along with the children. Completely inexcusable. The ostracism was so unbearable that Rudolph was forced to flee the town with his band of oddball friends.

Oh, hey Santa! We hope that crow tasted delicious!

Given the fact that Hermey the Elf likely does not walk at a fast pace, we have concluded that the Island of Misfit Toys is a river archipelago in the nearby Tanana River.

As for Yukon Cornelius, we assume that judging by his name, he is likely Canadian, and thereby ineligible to vote in American elections.


Mike and Carol Brady (Robert Reed and Florence Henderson)
“A Very Brady Christmas”
North Hollywood, Los Angeles, Calif.
Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman

The Bradys are totally Valley, according to our friends at The Los Angeles Times did a pretty in-depth write-up on the house by, yes, a man named Brady.

In 1988, the Bradys reunited for “A Very Brady Christmas,” and the film took a dangerous turn. Mike, an architect, was called away from Christmas dinner after a building collapsed on two security guards. He, too, became trapped when he entered the building. The entire Brady clan raced to the worksite to keep vigil for him.

Carol single-handedly saved Mike through the power of song. Her rendition of “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” summoned the Brady patriarch’s strength to emerge from the rubble.

The district is just barely in Sherman’s stomping grounds, along with “The Bad News Bears” and “The Sandlot” kids.

But the North Hollywood Brady House is only a stone’s throw away from Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas’ 29th District. The 29th is also home to  Andrea Zuckerman, star-but-illegal student at West Beverly Hills High of the 90210 ZIP code.

Previous Installments: 

Making the Most of the Snow Day

There’s no denying it. Winter is here.

Rather than curse the crappy road conditions (and even worse, the inexperienced drivers), why not celebrate what a liberal coating of the white stuff means: We’ve got an honest-to-god snow day!

Granted, not everyone has the day off (ahem). But many folks do.

So, have a little fun today. You deserve it.


Spike Mendelsohn’s steak frites joint (313 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) is serving up hot toddys ($5) as well as bowls of French onion soup au gratin partnered with a glass of wine ($10) for those who need something warm in their bellies. And everyone can enjoy all-day happy hour ($2 off any beer, glass or wine or specialty cocktail).


The Capitol Hill watering hole (410 First St. SE) is rolling out frosty beers ($3 Bud Light, Shock Top and Bullfeathers Amber Ale) and winter warmers ($5 bloody marys, hot toddys and Irish coffee) for those willing to brave the elements. Drafts of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter are also on special for $5 today.

Dupont Circle Snowball Fight

The Washington DC Snowball Fight Association has yet to make the call about unleashing hell today. Confidence is medium they’ll get into something before this all melts away.

Johnny’s Half Shell

On days like today, Johnny’s co-owner John Fulchino wishes he were back in Beantown. “In Boston every bar and restaurant would be packed,” he said. “Lots of new love was found on those snowy days.”

Alas, he’s here.

But he is open. And he’s got something special he’s raring to pour.

“I just made fresh squeezed tangerine margaritas this week. Best margarita I have ever made,” he asserted. “Impossible to just have one.” Full story

Flake, Edwards to Headline 2014 Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner

Featured speakers Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., are officially on the hook to leave “This Town” laughing at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 70th annual congressional dinner.

The charity event, scheduled to take place on Feb. 5 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, helps fund the WPCF’s educational initiatives, ongoing oral history project and intern placement program.

WPCF dinner committee Co-Chairwoman Christina Bellantoni (current PBS NewsHour political editor/incoming Roll Call editor in chief) said Flake and Edwards got the nod after careful consideration of members who might enjoy mixing it up a bit on stage. The newly minted senator has shown he’s not afraid to take his cues from cult cartoons, while Edwards has been known to talk a little smack around the softball diamond.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., laid into colleagues at last year’s yukfest, the first time the field had been narrowed down to just two would-be roasters.

Should Flake or Edwards need some pointers, they might want to chat up Delaware Democrat Chris Coons. The then-incoming senator honed his material for three months in anticipation of the 2011 dinner.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 11:43 a.m.
DC, Reps, Sens

December 9, 2013

Filner Receives Probation, Fine for Misconduct

Bob Filner, the California Democrat who stepped down as mayor of San Diego amid a cloud of sexual-harassment allegations, was sentenced on Monday to complete 90 days home confinement, plus three years of probation.

Filner resigned his position in late August. He pleaded guilty to a felony false imprisonment charge and two counts of misdemeanor battery in October, after being accused by multiple women of harassment and inappropriate conduct.

“Certainly the behaviors before this court today will never be repeated. And I am confident I will come out of this a better person,” Filner pledged in a pre-sentencing statement.

Filner initially attempted to defuse the media frenzy the mounting accusations sparked by enrolling in counseling, but he eventually elected to leave office. As part of the plea deal, the former 10-term congressman must wear a GPS-enabled monitoring device throughout his probation, may not run for public office until his probation is over and was fined about $1,500.

Things began going south for Filner shortly after his fiancee called off their engagement in July.

Former Hill Aide Spins Pages’ Tales Into Political Thriller

Newly minted author Michael Middlechurch uses the everyday drama of doing Congress’ bidding to propel the trio at the heart of his Hill-centric novel, “The Buddy System,” into the nightmarish side of politics.

The former House page handler told HOH he began writing his debut novel the day after the longstanding educational program was shuttered in 2011, weaving together the stories he’d so eagerly collected from participating high schoolers with a story arc developed for his own edification.

“I wanted to create a fictionalized account for why it ended,” Middlechurch explained, noting that he and many of the other instructors were left unsatisfied with the party line about budget constraints and modern conveniences rendering the program useless.

“The Buddy System,” the first book of a planned trilogy, was designed to delve into a “deeper reason that is more intriguing.” The main story line focuses on a trio of congressional pages and what they do in their off hours — “I created this apartment in Dupont Circle where they party and have a good time when they’re not in school,” Middlechurch shared — which, naturally, leads to a series of misadventures. (Paging Florida Republican Trey Radel!)

Although the novel is clearly fiction, Middlechurch said many of the characters and situations are rooted in reality. Full story

Palin Book Critiques: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Political pot-stirrer Sarah Palin’s new book, “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas,” has been released just in time for the holiday shopping blitz.

Palin Book Critiques: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Based on the online reviews to date, the polarizing tome appears to be brimming with exactly what true believers and fervent detractors both wanted to hear.

The latest publishing effort by the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee marries the former Alaskan governor’s personal reflections about Christmas with her current campaign to shame secularists for presumably robbing this nation of its holiest of holidays. The book debuted in mid-November and briefly broke onto The New York Times best-seller list (debuting at No. 13).

A fellow Breitbart scribe (Palin pens a column for the conservative blogging network) praised Palin’s prose as a “brisk and enjoyable read.”

“Even as we learn that Todd Palin gives the Governor what she considers the coolest of Christmas gifts — such as a .30-06 rifle, hockey skates, and a ‘beautiful red manual ice auger for ice fishing’ — Palin packs powerful punches,” Peter Schweizer proclaimed late last week.

Critics, however, have been punching back via faux five-star (and some one-star) reviews on Amazon.

A commenter who identifies himself as Brian C. Gardner of Cleveland, Ohio, could not contain his excitement, declaring the item “the book America most needs right now” on the very day of its publication.

“Christmas is real. Not only is it real but, just as the earth was created in six literal days six thousand years ago, it is more powerful than the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, Labor day, and Memorial Day combined. It is the Voltron of Holy Days, not to be confused with the liberal facade of ‘holidays,’” Gardner asserts in his tongue-in-cheek takedown.

A commenter who identifies himself as Joel Cruz of Chicago, Ill., marveled at Palin’s commanding grip on the issues of the day.

“In concise, two-syllable words and plenty of illustrations, Mrs. Palin calls us to battle, Constitution in hand, Bible in the other, and the Declaration of Independence in the other against the forces that would steal our Christmases and in doing so, return to the greater, snow-white America that we love. Mrs. Palin, I doff my tri-cornered hat to you and humbly lay my godless degrees in Bible, history, and theology at your Alaskan feet!” Cruz jeered. Full story

The 5Kers of Capitol Hill: Running Mystery Solved!

HOH has finally discovered where all those would-be marathoners — you know, the weekend warriors who flood city streets in matching T-shirts and kitschy headgear — are always racing off to:

The 5Kers of Capitol Hill: Running Mystery Solved!

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Turns out, everyone really wants to hang in some creepy, closet-looking space on the top floor of the Cannon Building. (We don’t get what all the fuss is about.)

By Warren Rojas Posted at 11:25 a.m.
Foolishness, HillSide

December 8, 2013

Holiday Partying, the Washington Way | Capitol Quip

Holiday Partying, the Washington Way | Capitol Quip

‘Tis the season for celebrating holiday cheer, as long as you don’t sit down with a plate and silverware! With the holiday party season in full swing, members of Congress and staffers get to socialize — as long as they don’t break any ethics guidelines, that is. This all 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 Dec. 11, and everyone can vote for the winner through Dec. 12.

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

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

Nuke ‘Em High | Capitol Quip

 Nuke Em High | 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.

December 6, 2013

John McCain Saves the Day at Harris Teeter

John McCain Saves the Day at Harris Teeter

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Veteran Democrat aide Ty Matsdorf, who is typically bogged down amassing blistering opposition research, finally found something Republican to be thankful for on Friday: Sen. John McCain.


The former contributor to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign told HOH that the Arizona Republican came to his overburdened wife’s rescue while she was out gathering groceries at the Potomac Yard Harris Teeter at 3600 S. Glebe Road in Arlington, Va.

Per Matsdorf, his mother accompanied his wife and newborn daughter to the store. But as they made their way back to the car, grandma had to rush back into the Teeter, leaving mama Matsdorf to wrestle with the bulky baby carrier, a full cart and the rain.

“As she was exiting, McCain was entering with an empty cart. Upon seeing my wife, he immediately stopped and unprompted said, ‘Let me help you,’” Matsdorf said of the kindly gesture. “My wife said ‘no, no’ but he insisted saying, ‘I know how hard it is with kids.’ He then left his empty cart, and pushed my wife’s all the way to our car, which apparently was really far away because my wife couldn’t find parking.”

Once at the car, Matsdorf said McCain even offered to help unload the groceries. But by then his mother had returned, and Team Matsdorf was able to resume control of the parenting fray.

Here’s to knights in shining armor, whatever their political stripe might be.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 5:11 p.m.
AwesomeSauce, Sens

Second Richest Member Bemoans Health Care Costs (Video)

Turns out Americans without employer-based health insurance might not be the only ones hit with higher insurance premiums.

Rep. Michael McCaul, Congress’ second richest member, took to the House floor this week to criticize the Affordable Care Act. The Texas Republican, with an estimated net worth of at least $114 million, said he lost his health care plan and his premiums on the D.C. Health Exchange went up significantly, impacting his family.

As the health care law rolls out for members and staffers, McCaul — who has significant investments in health insurance companies such as United Health Group and Aetna, according to his financial disclosures — wanted all to know he felt the pinch, too.

By JM Rieger Posted at 4:04 p.m.

This Year’s Most Beautiful Christmas Card

The parade of self-styled holiday greetings has officially begun. And we dare suggest that the first vanity project to cross our desk may very well win the entire season.

This Year’s Most Beautiful Christmas Card

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

For those of you not lucky enough to bask in the glory of House staffer Scott Cunningham’s Christmas correspondence, the legislative aide to Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, re-purposed his debut on this year’s “50 Most Beautiful” list by The Hill as the backdrop for his personal greeting.

“Making The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People list? Easy. Sending my Christmas cards out on time? Harder than keeping the government open,” the House GOP aide quipped, referring back to the unscheduled legislative break that was Drunktober.

Cunningham’s bold maneuver (bonus points for making light of the government shutdown, what with Congress unlikely to beat reindeer poop in a public opinion poll right now) made at least one veteran Hill staffer cringe.

“That’s horrible! I’m embarrassed for them,” our source said upon learning of the recycled imagery.

Cunningham did not respond to repeated emails requesting clarification about how many cards were mailed out, or how far the insider-y missive might travel. (Outside the Beltway? All the way back to the Lone Star State?)

Others remain hard at work on the blizzard of creative messaging that blankets congressional offices around this time of year. Full story

Deutch Doesn’t Play When It Comes to Piano

As far as Rep. Ted Deutch is concerned, there’s always time to tickle the ivories.

Deutch Doesn’t Play When It Comes to Piano

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

The Florida Democrat spontaneously began playing a few bars Wednesday, following a Recording Academy briefing for lawmakers interested in intellectual property rights. As part of the advocacy effort, hit-maker Harvey Mason Jr. — who has worked with performers ranging from Aretha Franklin to Justin Bieber — treated Deutch and Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Tom Marino, R-Pa., to a sneak preview of “Who Do You Love,” an unreleased track from Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson’s forthcoming album.

According to an HOH tipster, Deutch “stole some limelight when he gave an impromptu (and very short) riff on the keyboard.”

Not that anyone should be terribly surprised. Full story

Blackburn’s Top Aide Strikes a Pose — From the Past

It may be House staffer Mike Platt’s birthday.

Blackburns Top Aide Strikes a Pose — From the Past

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

But thanks to some sneaky office mates and a mischievous spouse, anyone wandering over to the Cannon House Office Building can share in the present of a peek into his Blue Steel-y past.

The photographic tribute was posted outside Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s office door bright and early Thursday morning as a special tribute for the chief of staff’s 40th birthday.

“I was totally surprised. I had no idea they had anything like this planned,” Platt told HOH about encountering his younger, stone-faced self when he waltzed into work.

According to Platt, his family revels in recirculating the novelty shot at strategically selected times. “This lovely photo is most definitely a glamour shot,” Platt admitted via email. “I did some modeling in high school and college.” Full story

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