Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 22, 2014

August 7, 2013

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!

Shadow Senator Power Lunches With ‘Chasing the Hill’ Star

D.C. shadow Sen. Paul Strauss is doing some power lunching.

Strauss shared a midday meal today with “West Wing” alumna Melissa Fitzgerald, an actress he got to know on the set of Web-based political drama “Chasing the Hill.”

Strauss and Fitzgerald talked about a shared political passion — “how we get statehood for D.C.” — over Russian cuisine at Dupont Circle’s Mari Vanna, Strauss told HOH.

The pair met last year, when the shadow senator did some bit work in an episode starring Fitzgerald’s character, Samantha Clemons, and her fictional congressional campaign. Strauss said he makes “one cameo as ‘man getting cursed at the Democratic convention.’”

On Friday, Fitzgerald will help launch a real-life candidate into California politics.

The actress is scheduled to appear at a campaign event in Malibu, Calif. Fitzgerald will introduce “Chasing the Hill” director Brent Roske, as he kicks off his independent campaign against 39-year incumbent Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.

Strauss did not comment on whether Fitzgerald mentioned the campaign during lunch.

August 5, 2013

Team Gosar Invents New SCOTUS Justice (Updated)

Updated 5:10 p.m. | Rep. Paul Gosar has been after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for weeks now, taking to the House floor for a series of tongue-lashings that include throwing a Supreme Court justice’s trepidation about privacy issues in the administration’s face.

Team Gosar Invents New SCOTUS Justice (Updated)

(Screenshot)

The only problem is he’s citing a nonexistent authority.

An eagle-eyed HOH tipster noted that the Arizona Republican seemed to be relying on moral support from a “William Brandeis” when, in fact, he meant to stand on the shoulders of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

“I know it’s just a typo, but for the love of God, Louis Brandeis is one of the most important Justices in the Court’s history — at least get his name right,” the anonymous stickler griped.

Full story

Take Five: Robert Pittenger

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work. This week Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., talks about being banished from caffeine and what he’s learned from strong leaders.

Q. You have long days while Congress is in session. Are you a coffee/tea/soda addict now? What is your beverage of choice to get you through the day?

A. My staff won’t let me have caffeine. They say I’m high strung enough without it! The long days and busy schedule have forced me to start wearing rubber-soled shoes. After work, I enjoy a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice, and occasionally a glass of wine.

Q. You began your career in service to your faith. Do you continue working with faith-based projects?

A. Actually, I was in east Asia on a mission trip when I was first contacted about running for Congress. My wife and I met while working for a campus ministry organization, and we continue to be actively involved with several Christian ministry groups.

Q. What is your favorite movie of all time and why?

A. “Patton.” Gen. Patton was a remarkable military leader, and I am always interested in learning from great leaders.

Q. What are your plans over the congressional recess?

A. “Recess” was in the fourth grade when you go outside and play kickball! During August, I will host seven town hall meetings in the district, congratulate summer school graduates and travel to Israel with Majority Leader Eric Cantor. May I have my club soda now?

Q. If you could travel anywhere in the world [some place you have not visited], where would you go, and why?

A. Australia — a beautiful country that is fertile for growth and great opportunity.

August 4, 2013

The Winning Caption’s Coming Right at You | Capitol Quip

The Winning Captions Coming Right at You | 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.

And … They’re Off! | Capitol Quip

And ... Theyre Off! | Capitol Quip

Congress has left for its August recess — ahem, district work period — leaving critics to claim that the legislative branch is taking time off when the country can least afford it. Most members, though, will spend a great deal of the next five weeks in town halls and fundraisers, perhaps punishment enough.

Regardless of where you fall on this divide, send us a caption for this week’s Capitol Quip! Leave it in the comments section below. Editors will pick five finalists on Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner until Thursday afternoon.

To check out past winners, visit Pinterest.

August 2, 2013

John Culberson’s Insanely Simple To-Do List

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, is living the political version of “Groundhog Day.”

And he freakin’ loves it.

The Blotto Files: Congressional Staffers’ Greatest Misses

The Blotto Files: Congressional Staffers’ Greatest Misses

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As we were so beautifully reminded this week, sometimes Hill staffers hit the sauce a little too hard.

Mind you, bending the elbow is pretty much part of the job these days, with lawmakers and their lackeys obliged to flock from a cocktail hour for this to a policy reception for that just about every night they are actually here in town (lobbyists are hard-cases like that).

And while no one should begrudge overworked colleagues the opportunity to live a little, we’d just like to point out that many of these sad sacks effectively committed career suicide (ranked from most to least damaging outcome) all for a few drinks.

  • Rep. Rick Larsen’s doomed “December to Remember” crew: A trio of myopic social-media addicts decided to not only get wrecked while working for the Washington Democrat but also to advertise said debauchery via Twitter.
  • Rep. Steven M. Palazzo’s party girl: HOH rock star Whitney Donald swore there was nothing too crazy going on at the Annapolis, Md., home she secretly rented in the Mississippi Republican’s name for a weekend rager. The neighbors begged to differ.
  • Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s bleary-eyed super fan: Young love can be disorienting enough. Add in a serious bender, misplaced footwear and an office-wide declaration of your burning desire to bask in the glow of the Wisconsin Republican’s presence and you’ve got a teachable moment that clearly deserves its own chapter in the Cap Hill orientation manual.
  • Rep. Suzanne Kosmas’ mouth-bashing mouthpiece: Marc Goldberg, spokesman for the Florida Democrat, decided to let his fists do the talking during a dispute at a Dupont Circle watering hole. Guess when you gotta go, you gotta go …

Jo Bonner Comes Full Circle in Funny Farewell Speech

Retiring Rep. Jo Bonner signed off from his career in public life with a self-effacing address recalling the unintentional sexy-talk he broadcast to millions a decade ago.

The Alabama Republican, who is stepping down from Congress to join the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), took to the House floor Thursday to regale colleagues with the tale of his most embarrassing ad-lib of all time.

“I said, ‘We have a real problem with incest in South Alabama’. I said, in fact, ‘I would venture a guess, we have more problem with incest in my district in Alabama than in any other congressional district in America,’” Bonner shared of an off-the-cuff remark that was supposed to garner sympathy for an INSECT problem— pine beetles, to be exact — in his area.

Whether he’s simply misremembering things or hammed it up again for added effect or is open for debate.

Full story

August 1, 2013

Good Day for Vegetables, Fruits on Capitol Hill

Lettuce, cantaloupes — it was a good day to be a vegetarian on Capitol Hill.

First came the news of immigration activists delivering cantaloupes to the office of Rep. Steve King. The Iowa Republican recently bemoaned the number of undocumented immigrants he said are dope-smugglers with calves the size of cantaloupes as the result of ferrying mounds of marijuana across the desert. That took care of the fruit course.

Good Day for Vegetables, Fruits on Capitol Hill

Immigration activists delivered these cantaloupes to King’s office. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Then came the vegetable course, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals hosting its annual veggie-dog lunch today, complete with the always popular “Lettuce Ladies.”

Good Day for Vegetables, Fruits on Capitol Hill

A staffer poses with the PETA “Lettuce Ladies” outside of the Rayburn House Office Building. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Who needs Meatless Mondays?

Senators Attend Bipartisan BBQ Before Recess Stampede

At least it wasn’t one of their colleagues on a spit.

Just minutes after a contentious vote on a Transportation-HUD spending bill, senators gathered for an August recess farewell barbecue lunch in the Kennedy Caucus Room.

Senators Attend Bipartisan BBQ Before Recess Stampede

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Dan Coats, Jeanne Shaheen and Charles E. Grassley arrive in the Russell Building for a bipartisan BBQ. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It was unclear what the farewell fete was to celebrate, perhaps that many members won’t have to see each other for five weeks.

Not every senator went. Others still were seen exiting the Senate office buildings early to get back to the Capitol.

A few, though, embraced the proximity of bipartisanship. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., chatted collegially with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on an open-air subway car back to the Capitol. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stopped to talk briefly with TV cameras on her way out.

This was the second consecutive August send-off pig pickin’, with a similar gathering happening last year as well.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he provided the food for the barbecue, which came from Sam’s BBQ 1 in Marietta, Ga., the same barbecue joint that catered the event last year. “I think it’s a good way to end the session for the summer and leave on a good note,” Isakson said.

Perhaps when senators come back after Labor Day, they can make a wager on a friendly game of cornhole to raise the debt limit.

Eddie Bernice Johnson Rips Into Lamar Smith

Eddie Bernice Johnson Rips Into Lamar Smith

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With the August recess looming large, members are slipping in the last partisan jabs they can before everyone retreats to the echo chambers of their respective districts.

During her opening statement on a resolution to authorize subpoenas for research data the Environmental Protection Agency uses to justify air quality regulations, House Science ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas got a little too personal, in the opinion of the panel’s Republicans. Full story

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