Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 1, 2015

May 7, 2014

Vote For Your Favorite Capitol Doughnut Quip

Capitol Rotunda

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. ET Thursday.

Here are this week’s finalists!

  • And just like Congress, there is no center!
  • Caution: May contain nuts.
  • Where’s the coffee?
  • Hopefully it’s not too big to fail.
  • Did Michelangelo need a doughnut when he painted the Sistine Chapel?

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on May 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.

Songwriters Jam at Library of Congress

Even at a concert celebrating songwriters, politics was on everyone’s minds.  To be fair, the concert was right across from the Capitol.

WIlliams often reminds lawmakers about artists' rights. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

WIlliams often reminds lawmakers about artists’ rights. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a captivating performance of “Crazy on You” by Ann and Nancy Wilson of the legendary band Heart, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., joked about the tensions among lawmakers.

Boxer told the audience that included Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., “I think we found our new theme song when we’re debating: ‘Crazy On You,’ crazy!  Right, Lamar?  We could do that.” Full story

Alan Simpson Dishes About Sex, Love and Marriage

Former Sen. Alan K. Simpson is truly milking this whole “I’m-retired-and-over-80-so-I-can-say-whatever-I-want-now” thing but good, letting it all hang out in an interview about affairs of the heart with WNYC reporter Anna Sale.

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

During her totally frank talk with the randy octogenarian, Sale discovers that the Wyoming Republican favors coarse language (“He peppers his sentence with cuss words,” she observes), reading “Othello” helped him recognize his own jealousy issues and that he still very much enjoys playing grab-ass with his wife of 60 years, Ann Simpson.

Moreover, the ex-lawmaker has no illusions about what it takes to keep a modern-day marriage from falling apart.

“It’s called sorting crap. But you have to take risks,” he counsels the divorce-scarred Sale.

Need to hear more?

The entirety of the almost NSFW-exchange — which was, curiously, set in motion by Sale’s lovelorn beau — should keep any helpless romantics out there completely riveted.

Wyden Channels ‘Portlandia’ at Senate Finance | Madisonville


The country’s roads and cars are a rich source of invention in our language, not to mention our music, literature and movies. You can find something for any purpose: living in the fast lane, moving on cruise control, running on empty, pedal to the metal, firing on all cylinders, asleep at the wheel, buckle up, we’re in for a rough ride, speed bump, my way or the highway, back-seat driver, one for the road, green light, bump in the road, hit the brakes, road kill, deer in the headlights, red light.

So when Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, holds a hearing about the depleted Highway Trust Fund — the biggest single source of funding for the nation’s roads — you expect him to find language to do justice to the cause.

“My bottom line is that you can’t have a big-league quality of life with little-league infrastructure,” Wyden said to open the hearing Tuesday.

A baseball metaphor? Little League? This is Wyden’s way of warning about potholes and deficient bridges? Either the country’s demography has changed far more than anybody realizes or Wyden is the senator from “Portlandia” — maybe both.

If ever a metaphor wasn’t built for purpose, this was it. Jack Kerouac didn’t write “On the First Base Line.” Bob Dylan didn’t sing “Right Field Revisited.” This was the Manchurian candidate of metaphors, a sleeper agent placed to betray the cause it was seemingly deployed to help. You could almost hear the air going out of the builders in the room. Full story

Staffer Stunned by John Culberson’s Monumental Rant

A House staffer learned, after sharing what sounds like a terribly uncomfortable elevator ride with Rep. John Culberson, that not everyone in Washington appreciates our museum-rich landscape.

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

According to our source, the Texas Republican opened up about his disdain for niche memorials, monuments and the like while shuttling from the basement of the Capitol to the second floor for votes.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., purportedly sparked the jarring conversation by needling Culberson about always “asking the tough questions” in GOP conference meetings.

Per the tipster, Culberson immediately launched into an anti-expansionist rant during which he questioned the need to carve out additional showplaces for African-Americans and Latinos — arguing that no one is clamoring to immortalize the struggle of the Czech-American immigrants that presumably populate his western Houston district.

The aide said Culberson then pivoted to fellow rider Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., and mumbled something about being “OK” with a women’s museum because that was “important for little girls.”

“It was just such a striking view into his world,” our spy said of the eye-opening encounter. “I was so profoundly offended. I couldn’t believe this happened in the Capitol.”

For what it’s worth, Culberson appears to be losing this fight.

Construction on the National Museum of African American History and Culture is already under way (projected to open in 2015) along Constitution Avenue Northwest. And the House is taking the incredibly brave step of considering a bill authorizing a commission to study the merits of maybe, one day, green-lighting the construction of a permanent home for the nearly 20-year-old National Women’s History Museum project.

Culberson spokesman Stephen Worley told HOH his boss’ biggest beef with museum creep is the financial commitments involved.

“It’s my understanding that Rep. Culberson is concerned with the cost of building new museums when our current network of museums are in need of updates and repair,” Worley shared, adding that the proposed Women’s History Museum is exempt from his scrutiny because it “won’t come at a cost to taxpayers.”

That must come as a relief to Miller, who our tipster said stood stone-faced throughout Culberson’s spiel.

“Creating a commission, which would be paid for and maintained entirely with private funds, to study a future museum is an important step towards memorializing America’s memory of the deep and enduring contributions women have made. It is especially important to fully explore how such a museum would integrate within our existing Smithsonian Institution,” the House Administration Committee chairwoman said in a release following her panel’s endorsement of enshrining the combined efforts of American womanhood that her staff sent along to HOH.

Hastings did not reply to a request for comment.

May 6, 2014

Officer Debonair, at Your Service | Overheard

“If anyone gives you any problems about being late for your meeting, just tell ’em THE good-looking officer held you up. They’ll know who you’re talking about.”

— Capitol Police Officer offers female journalist delayed by the motorcade of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. an easy out.

Congressional Women’s Softball Rosters Are Out

The Congressional Women’s Softball Team and its archrival, The Bad News Babes, are out with their rosters about a month ahead of  the Congressional Women’s Softball Game.

Both teams feature 20 players. The member team will have strong delegations from Florida and Arizona. The press team boasts strong contingents from CNN, NBC News and The New York Times, and, of course, Roll Call.

Game day is June 18, and it benefits The Young Survival Coalition, a breast cancer charity.

The big takeaway are the rookies. Rep. Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., joined the team after her December special election win, along with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

Similarly, The Bad News Babes added ABC Deputy Bureau Chief Sara Just and The New York Times’ Carolyn Ryan to its own roster.

Full story

Arkansans Host Tornado Relief Happy Hour at Hawk ‘n’ Dove

Heartbroken Razorbacks can help funnel money back to their storm-ravaged state by attending the D.C. Chapter of the Arkansas Alumni Association’s “Helping Like a Hog” fundraiser Wednesday night at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove (320 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).

A tornado devastated central Arkansas, killing 16, on April 27. President Barack Obama is scheduled to survey the ongoing disaster relief efforts on Wednesday afternoon.

The charity happy hour is scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. and will feature assorted drink specials, including a still-in-development “Arkansas-themed” cocktail ($3) as well as discounted beer ($3 Miller Lites), house wine ($4) and rail drinks ($5).

Chapter President Spencer Lucker assured HOH that 100 percent of the donations collected at the door would flow through to the American Red Cross, which has agreed to earmark the funds for Arkansas storm relief. Although there is no set fee to attend — “We’re open to any and all donations,” Lucker suggested — every $20 contributed earns the donor one entry into a special raffle.

Prizes include two sets of tickets to upcoming games at neighboring Nationals Park (gorgeous weather and timely floor wrap-up not included), as well as a gift bag assembled by the Personal Care Products Council.

Becerra Aides Help Spread Mariachi Madness

Sure, it’s a mostly manufactured holiday. But Cinco de Mayo can still mean big business here in D.C. — particularly for the well-connected musicians in Mariachi Los Amigos.

(Courtesy Team Becerra)

(Courtesy Team Becerra)

The band of rotating performers — an aide to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California said the current troupe has been in place since late 2007; clips on their Facebook page suggest some iteration of the group has been enchanting fiesta-goers since at least 2001 — includes Daniel Herrera (violinist), who currently serves as deputy communications director for the House Democratic Caucus; Lorenzo Olvera (guitar), a former Becerra staffer; and Lorenzo’s brother Roberto Olvera (trumpet).

Monday was a big day for the boys; the band had been booked for four nearly back-to-back gigs, beginning with a dignitary-packed breakfast hosted by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the United States Naval Observatory. Full story

May 5, 2014

For Oberstar, Safe Routes to School Lives On

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James L. Oberstar is continuing to give to transportation causes, even posthumously.

Oberstar, who died over the weekend at age 79, served in the House for 36 years after working as a staffer, including as administrator of the old Committee on Public Works.

A death notice for the longtime Minnesota Iron Range congressman says the family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations should be directed to either the Safe Routes to School National Partnership or So Others Might Eat.

Full story

Angus King Extends Reid an Open Invitation to Maine (Video)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  scored an unexpected invitation from Angus King to visit the independent senator’s home state of Maine.

King says Reid is welcome anytime in Maine. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

King says Reid is welcome anytime in Maine. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The invitation came after the Nevada Democrat conceded in a floor speech recognizing National Travel and Tourism Week that he had only once visited the state that calls itself Vacationland,  with King presiding over the chamber.

“This industry’s impact is not unique to Nevada. The presiding officer’s state of Maine, people go there year round — it slows down a little in the winter time — people go there year round because of the beauty of the state of Maine,” Reid said. “I’ve only been to Maine [on] one occasion, but I came as a tourist. I wanted to see that beautiful state, and I was able to do that.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:07 p.m.

Congressional Democrats Host Pussy Riot

Senate Foreign Relation Committee member Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., and House Judiciary Committee member Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., are giving members of Pussy Riot, the all female punk collective that famously ran afoul of Russian President Vladimir Putin, an open mic on Capitol Hill with which to rail against human rights abuse and political oppression.

Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are scheduled to participate in a press conference Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. over on the Senate side of the Capitol.

The world-renowned protestors, who each spent nearly two years behind bars for publicly badmouthing Putin, have been speaking out about the sorry state of affairs within their home country since their release in late 2013.

The two were reportedly guests at Yahoo!’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner party over the weekend. Full story

Which Members of Congress Attended White House Correspondents Association Dinner?

From left: Matt Lehrich, AshLee Strong, Fischer, Steven T. Dennis. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

From left: White House’s Matt Lehrich, AshLee Strong of Sen. John Thune’s office, Fischer, Roll Call White House Correspondent Steven T. Dennis. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

The White House Correspondents Association Dinner is a chance to see and be seen, and an evening when Washington’s elite can rub elbows with Hollywood elites. Members of Congress also frequently attend as guests of the media outlets.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., lamented (sort of) that it could be his last #WHCD given he isn’t seeking re-election this fall. Before President Barack Obama began his speech, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CQ Roll Call it was “getting old” that the president has so often taken jabs at him. (He didn’t get mentioned this time around.)

Roll Call’s guests included Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

Here is a list of the members who attended, according to the official program.

Full story

Post-WHCD, No Rest for D.C. Party Hoppers

Anyone get up to anything interesting this weekend?

For those of you who did not brave the press-packed ballrooms and glitterati-studded after-parties that have come to define White House Correspondents’ Dinner weekend, This Town just finished indulging in epic amounts of booze, bad jokes and selfies.

The good news is there’s only 360-odd days until Hollywood next invades the nation’s capital — and immediately regrets it:



Assuming you and your liver remain on speaking terms, there are still plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with local “celebrities” in the days ahead:

On Tuesday, the Asian Republican Coalition plans to introduce itself to sitting politicos via a splashy rollout at the Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW). The program — which is expected to feature complimentary speeches by Sens. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., as well as House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — kicks off promptly at 6:30 p.m. and flows right into cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada should interrupt the festivities at some point to provide their two cents (four cents?) on Asians and the GOP.

Also on Tuesday, the ASCAP Foundation, the engagement arm of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, will give another round of musicians their due at the “We Write the Songs 2014” celebration.

Performers at this year’s event, scheduled to take place at the Library of Congress beginning at 7 p.m., include:

Freewheeling bandleader Jon Batiste

Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu is scheduled to introduce the N’awlins native. Full story

Alanis Morissette Sings Her Heart Out for Marianne Williamson

Award-winning songstress Alanis Morissette has released a new inspirational ditty. And it’s all about making the world a better place — by voting for House hopeful Marianne Williamson.

The anthemic “Today” — which includes the refrain, “Less we revive this constitution/From sure disintegration/Live out this revelation/Today” — was recorded by Morissette explicitly for Williamson’s campaign. Williamson, a self-help guru, is vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., in a race that has brought out dozens of potential successors looking to cast themselves as the official face of Hollywood in Washington, D.C.

Per Williamson’s campaign, Morissette was approached about putting together a musical tribute a few weeks back and immediately jumped at the opportunity.

“I was attempting to capture the passion, mission, activism, deep humanity and tenderness of Marianne, the new political sensibility she represents and the consciousness that produced it,” Morissette shared on YouTube about the writing experience, adding, “I love this song. I love this woman and I love a world that would vote for her.” Full story

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