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

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

Members, Lobbyists Slog It Out at Basketball Game

It was a suitable ending to an ugly affair when House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s shot at the buzzer stuck between the rim and backboard.

“Most people would try to just make it; I wanted it to stop,” the California Republican said.

Members, Lobbyists Slog It Out at Basketball Game

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Despite turnovers and poor execution, members of Congress held off a late surge by the lobbyists’ team to capture their second straight Hoops for Hope Championship on Monday, 25-19.  McCarthy, one of four participants honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the half, said everyone was a little rusty.

“This was one of the lowest scoring games [I can remember],” McCarthy said. “I think it shows we’re just coming back from break.” Full story

Republicans Braced for Syria Week at Bibiana

With marathon negotiations on Syria stretching into week two, House and Senate Republicans on Monday took the opportunity to regroup and do a little communal carbo-loading in a back room at Bibiana.

An HOH tipster said GOP lawmakers — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina —overran the tony Italian eatery on Monday.

The information-starved group appears to be all over the place on the issue. Cantor, for instance, was one of the first to fall in line behind President Barack Obama’s call to action, while Cornyn and Scott remain question marks.

No word on whether the pols reached any type of consensus on whether to risk their necks for another Middle East showdown.

But confidence is high they would all agree that the house-made meatballs (a marriage of mouthwatering ground pork and veal), eggplant-stuffed arancini and squid ink pasta are to die for.

Public Ain’t Buying What POTUS Is Selling

With just hours to go before his prime-time address on Syria, it would seem that President Barack Obama has some seriously heavy lifting to do to win the hearts and minds of a deeply fractured electorate.

Public Ain’t Buying What POTUS Is Selling


Some online skeptics appear inclined to agree with Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., that there’s still plenty left to do around the home front, rather than barging into another country’s affairs.

September 9, 2013

Foleys Are Downsizing, but Keeping All the Memories

In a move aimed at clearing away some clutter, Heather Foley, wife of infirm ex-Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., is offering up almost two dozen rare collectibles set to be auctioned off this weekend.

“He’s frail. Fortunately, we bought long-term care insurance. Otherwise, I don’t know what I would do,” Heather told HOH of the financial toll treating the aspiration pneumonia Foley has battled off and on for the past year has taken on the family.

The 84-year-old Foley remains in hospice care at home.

The brunt of the lot, which is available for viewing and bidding via Quinn’s Auction Galleries, features modernist furniture and portraits produced by trendsetters Herman Miller and Paul Doering, respectively. There’s even a Hans Wegner lounge chair (minimum bid: $1,000). Heather says it is the first piece of high-end comfort Foley ever acquired.

But perhaps the most curious castoffs are the tiny figurines Heather snatched up while half a world away.

Foleys Are Downsizing, but Keeping All the Memories

(Courtesy Quinn’s Auction Galleries)

Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 4:41 p.m.
AwesomeSauce, Reps

Anti-War Activists Strive to Illuminate Capitol Hill

Anti War Activists Strive to Illuminate Capitol Hill

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A cadre of progressive organizations are urging those opposed to U.S. involvement in the Syria crisis to join their candlelight vigil Monday night just steps from the Capitol.

The demonstration, coordinated by, CREDO Action, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Win Without War, is expected to take place beginning at 7 p.m. opposite the Cannon House Office Building.

Those hoping to add their voice to the choir of naysayers can sign up here.

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