Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 31, 2015

October 4, 2013

Shutdown Nearly Kills Z-Burger

Z-Burger to Feds: Make it stop.

Since Z-Burger announced its shutdown special — a free burger for furloughed federal workers — the local chainlet has served up 15,840 gratis burgers, a retail equivalent of about $88,000, The The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog reports.

“It literally almost put me out of business,” Z-Burger owner Peter Tabibian told the WSJ. To wit, he shut down the promotion on Thursday.

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:01 p.m.
DC, Food

Richard Simmons to Congress: You Can Cope if You Have Hope

Fitness maestro Richard Simmons is worried about Capitol Hill.

“I think there’s a lot of stress in Washington,” he said about the government shutdown in an exclusive interview with HOH. “You should be blessed, not stressed.”

Richard Simmons to Congress: You Can Cope if You Have Hope

Richard Simmons wants people on the Hill to be happy! (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

He expressed concern for the members, Hill staffers and reporters feeling worn down by the drama. But he noted there are many Americans with self-esteem and weight issues who are far worse off than those caught in the middle of this political crisis.

“I planted a weeping willow tree just to sit under it and cry,” he said of his contact with those individuals.

“You can cope if you have hope,” he added. “And that’s what I try to give people.”

He was adamant that even amid the political chaos, Washingtonians should still prioritize a healthy lifestyle.

Full story

Congress Puts Politicking on Autopilot

Congress Puts Politicking on Autopilot

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Just because members have technically switched the lights off in their offices doesn’t mean the behind-the-scenes sniping has to stop.

That’s what Maryland resident Bunnie Riedel said she discovered when she tried to ring members of her delegation to protest the shameful treatment of visiting World War II veterans who were temporarily turned away from the monuments on the first day of the government shutdown.

“It was almost like a campaign speech on those recordings,” Riedel complained to HOH about the announcements she had to sit through during calls to Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin.

Full story

Layman Explains Shutdown’s Horse Sense

Liberal Frank Kelly has penned his first one-act play, a dramedy in which the ongoing government shutdown is boiled down to a farcical horse race.

“I’m an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles (non-furloughed!). And I promise I don’t have a script I’m ‘working on,’” Kelly, who claims he doesn’t typically wade too far into politics, assured HOH via email. But he said he became so transfixed by the psychology behind the budget impasse — the idiocy of it all kept him up for a bit one night, then turned to resolve the following evening — he felt compelled to break down the fight for even the most casual of observers.

He blasted out the cheeky analysis, titled, “Government Shutdown as a Horse Race Metaphor,” to 18 friends — one of whom must have shared it with the GOP tipster who zapped it our way:

Scene: At the Horse Race Track

Republicans: “I don’t like that horse that’s winning.”

Democrats: “Oh, I actually kind of like that horse that’s winning.”

Republicans: “Well, you’re going to have to stop that horse from winning.”

Democrats: “Excuse me?”

Republicans: “Stop that horse from winning, I hate it.”

Democrats: “We already started the race, I can’t stop the horse from winning.”

Republicans: “Well fine, if you don’t stop that horse from winning I’m going to kill all the horses.”

Democrats: “What! You’re going to kill ALL the horses?”

Republicans: “Well, you leave me no choice.”

Democrats: “So just cause that horse is winning you are going to kill it and all the other horses in the race?”

Republicans: “Well, I actually can’t kill the one horse that’s winning.”

Democrats: “So you’re just going to to kill all the OTHER horses?”

Republicans: “Exactly.”

Democrats: “How is that going to stop the horse that’s winning?”

Republicans: “I don’t know, but you sure will be depressed about all these dead horses laying about.”

End Scene

“I think it was emailed to one person in DC who works in politics and is a Republican moderate. I think he is more upset about the whole thing than I am,” Kelly said of the shared contempt he believes the shutdown has fostered across the ideological spectrum.

To wit, Kelly hinted that he’d be just as wary of allowing the far left to wield absolute power.

“It’s like if a bunch of annoying hippies got to run the Democratic Party. ‘We’re not raising the debt ceiling until all the nuclear weapons and reactors and bad feelings are destroyed!’” he joked about his personal nightmare scenario.

Kelly may not be a comedic genius, but his comparison did make us chuckle. It remains, however, only the second-biggest debacle involving bumbling gamblers and perplexing messaging.

Congress has the Marx Brothers to thank for that.

October 3, 2013

‘Citizen Cabinet’ Could Give Lawmakers a Feel for Their Constituents’ Opinions

Voice of the People, a new non-partisan organization in Washington, announced Thursday its campaign to create a national citizen Cabinet that will allow the opinions of Americans to be heard by Congress.

The organization’s long-term goal is to pass legislation that will establish a “congressionally-chartered national academy for public consultation that will develop a full Citizen Cabinet so that every member of Congress will be able to hear from a representative sample of their constituents,” explained Steven Kull, president and founder of Voice of the People.

Joining the organization’s advisory board are former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; former Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del.; former Rep. Bill Frenzel, R-Minn.; and former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas.

The plan to scientifically-select a sample of 120,000 Americans — 275 from each congressional district throughout the country — will allow those chosen to first be informed by a set of facts agreed upon by experts on both sides. Full story

Witnesses Describe Chaotic Scene

Several eyewitnesses of Thursday’s car chase and shooting at the Capitol described a chaotic scene as Capitol Police officers attempted to get a female suspect to exit her car — she refused and they opened fire with service weapons as she sped away.

One 57-year-old man from the District, Frank Schwing, said he was near a grove of trees “on the Mall side … at the base of the Capitol. Police came out with their their guns drawn, opened the passenger side [door], tried to get the driver out. At that point, the driver slammed in reverse, slammed into a cruiser, did a 180 and took off. At that point there were about a half a dozen shots fired. … At that point you could hear a number of cars coming in, police up on the Hill made us get down. They were trying to evacuate us into a safe place. They had their guns drawn.”

Regina Romero, 54, of Sacramento,Calif., is visiting D.C. with her family on vacation. She said she was standing near the Botanic Garden at the time of the incident, on the west side of the House side of the Capitol.

“There were a lot of police cars coming from all directions,” she said, adding she heard 10 to 12 gunshots.

“We were kind of scared because we heard what happened a couple of weeks ago,” she said, referring to the Navy Yard shooting.

Irina Kleiman of Toronto, said, “My husband [and I] were right beside the Capitol Building [on the Senate side]. And we heard three or four shots in front of the building [on the west side]. We just stood there looking. Then we heard some more shots up the street [from Constitution Ave.] And then suddenly everybody started running. Thousands of police showed up. Where we were, there was a policeman with a huge rifle who yelled at us, ‘This is real, get down.’ I was so scared, so we just ran and he said to crouch behind a bench.”

Nathanael Bennett had a birds-eye view of Thursday’s incident from his office on the third floor of the American Center for Law and Justice, at the southeast corner of the intersections of Maryland and Constitution avenues and Second Street Northeast, across from the Hart Senate Office Building.

“I heard a commotion — a screeching car, car crashing, and gun shots — all in rapid succession,” Bennett told Roll Call. At that point, he turned around in his chair to look out the window.

From Bennett’s vantage point, the car was behind the guard shack at the intersection. He saw three police officers converge on the vehicle from three sides, firing their weapons: one officer from the median, standing behind some electrical boxes near the guard shack, a second officer in front of the car on Constitution Avenue, and a third officer from the sidewalk near the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum.


Witnesses Describe Chaotic Scene

(Courtesy Nathanael Bennett)

After a series of at least a dozen gunshots, the car went into reverse, careened into the median and into the guard shack. At that point, Bennett and his co-worker decided to move to the interior of their offices.

“The whole thing lasted about three or four seconds,” Bennett said.


Griffin’s Angry Tweet Sparks Social Media Firestorm

While Capitol Hill police raced to contain a mid-afternoon scare punctuated by gunshots, car chases and emergency evacuation procedures, Rep. Tim Griffin was busy firing partisan insults into the online ether.

Griffin’s Angry Tweet Sparks Social Media Firestorm

(CQ Roll Call photo illustration)

Less than a minute after alerting his Twitter flock about the life-threatening drama right outside the Capitol, the Arkansas Republican took a swipe at President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. — a move many observers took to mean that he somehow blamed Democrats for the violent episode.

Reactions ran the gamut from disbelief:

to derision: Full story

Marlin Stutzman Attempts Foot-from-Mouth Surgery

Marlin Stutzman Attempts Foot from Mouth Surgery

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The apology tour has begun for Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who wants desperately to take back the cluelessness about the House GOP’s endgame he shared with Roll Call alumnus David M. Drucker earlier this week.

“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is,” Stutzman told the Washington Examiner when pressed about the strategy behind the lingering government shutdown.

President Barack Obama didn’t mention the Indiana Republican by name during his Thursday morning speech to a Rockville, Md., construction company, but he did make sure to rub the GOP’s sentiments in the blue collar-crowd’s faces.

“Just yesterday, one House Republican said — I’m quoting here, all right, because I want to make sure people understand I didn’t make this up — one House Republican said, ‘We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this, and I don’t know what that even is.’

“Think about that. You have already gotten the opportunity to serve the American people. There’s no higher honor than that,” 44 told the assembled workers, who, according to media reports, both laughed and clapped for the ready-made punch line.

About an hour after being lampooned by POTUS, Stutzman’s press shop issued the following mea culpa:

“Yesterday, I carelessly misrepresented the ongoing budget debate and Speaker Boehner’s work on behalf of the American people. Despite my remarks it’s clear that the American people want both parties to come to the table to reopen the government, tackle this nation’s debt crisis, and stop ObamaCare’s pain.”

Best of luck with the rest of your backpedaling, sir.

Shutdown Reaches All the Way to … Belgium?

Shutdown Reaches All the Way to ... Belgium?

(Courtesy Susan Parry)

Signs like these are all over Washington and the rest of the country these days, but what makes this one unusual is that it was taken by this scribe’s mother-in-law in Waregem, Belgium, at the Flanders Field American Cemetery.

Yes, it appears even our overseas cemeteries honoring fallen U.S. soldiers from World Wars I and II are shuttered. Indeed, the American Battle Monuments Commission, which manages 24 cemeteries and 26 memorials, monuments and markers abroad, has shut down.

“The sacrifice of more than 218,000 U.S. servicemen and women is memorialized at these locations. Nearly 125,000 American war dead are buried at ABMC cemeteries, with an additional 94,000 individuals commemorated on Tablets of the Missing,” the ABMC’s website notes.

But the site also notes something else: “Due to a lack of funding for ABMC operations (U.S. Government shutdown), ABMC cemeteries and memorials are temporarily closed. We are unable to respond to your inquiries or provide the services and products described in the ‘Services Available’ section of this Web site. We regret any inconvenience these temporary actions may cause.”

Susan Parry, a D.C. resident (and mother to this reporter’s husband), said that one Belgian worker at the Flanders cemetery told her there are usually four people who man the site. The cemetery is the final resting place for 368 soldiers, who the ABMC said “gave their lives in liberating the soil of Belgium in World War I” in September 1918.

But the ABMC also serves larger and more popular tourist sites, such as the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial that contains the graves of 9,387 soldiers, most of whom died on D-Day.

Shutdown Reaches All the Way to ... Belgium?

(Courtesy Susan Parry)



Sean Duffy Assaulted (Updated)

Sean Duffy Assaulted (Updated)

Duffy gave a television interview on the government shutdown in the Capitol Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A minor altercation occurred Wednesday night involving Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wis., according to Capitol Hill sources.

Duffy’s office is confirming that “a minor incident happened last night as the congressman was walking to the Capitol for final votes.”

The final vote series occurred shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“A random individual, unknown to the congressman, began screaming at him and grabbed his arm,” said spokeswoman Cassie Smedile in a Thursday morning statement. “Mr. Duffy was unharmed. He reported the incident in compliance with House security procedures. Congressman Duffy has requested no further action be taken and there will be no further comment on the matter at this time.”

The confrontation may have stemmed from frustration over the federal government shutdown, according to sources.

Capitol Police are investigating a report of an assault on a member of Congress in the Longworth House Office Building, according to Kimberly Schneider, a public information officer for the department.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 10 a.m.
DC, HillSide, Reps

October 2, 2013

Miami University Gets Exclusive Tour of Shutdown Capitol

Shutdown rules have Capitol tour groups on a short leash — tour guides are furloughed, staff-led tours are forbidden, member-led tours are capped at 10 per group, and members must personally accompany the tour at all times.

That’s why a group of 25 Miami University students touring the rotunda raised HOH’s eyebrows. The Oxford, Ohio, university is located in Speaker John A. Boehner’s district, but he was nowhere in sight.

HOH was puzzled as to how the students, easily identified by their red “M” lapel pins and a few flashy Miami University folders, gained access to the Capitol. The leader of the group herded them through the Rotunda around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, then into the Old Senate Chamber, with a Capitol Police officer on hand to unlock the door. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 6:58 p.m.
DC, HillSide

Five Lines to Sing | Capitol Quip

Five Lines to Sing | 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:

  • He’s been singing the same tune for so long, it’s a wonder that he still needs to look at the words.
  • I vote to defund my senses.
  • What can I say? It’s better than the Kabuki-style theater we’ve had in Congress here lately.
  • Our polls tell us this one’s easy: the one-note samba!
  • At least it isn’t a Dr. Seuss book this time.

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Oct. 6 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 5:02 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Capitol Hill Businesses Confounded by Shutdown

Local bars and restaurants have made it their business to comfort congressional staffers who’ve been temporarily laid off while lawmakers continue haggling over a solution to the budgetary standoff.

Capitol Hill Businesses Confounded by Shutdown

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Meanwhile, shopkeepers all around Capitol Hill are struggling to understand why elected officials would deliberately undermine their efforts to earn a decent living.

Savita Malhotra, owner of Capital Hill Liquors & Deli (323 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), is simply stunned by the ongoing ideological scuffle.

“This should never have happened. This bickering does not help our country at all,” she said of the political theater playing out on cable news shows.

Capitol Hill Businesses Confounded by Shutdown

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

“We’re trying to create jobs and they’re hurting us by sending people home,” she said of the economic uncertainty looming over her head, adding that the legislative logjam has turned the entire neighborhood “into a ghost town.”

Thomas Calomiris, owner of an eponymous, family-owned fruit stand in Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE), said, at least so far, business has been about the same.

But he suggested that some patrons seem to have a tinge of worry in their voices.

“I’ve seen a few people who told me they suddenly have more free time,” he shared. Some shoppers have tried to put a happy face on the whole situation, while others just seem like they are trying to keep busy.

Capitol Hill Businesses Confounded by Shutdown

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

So far, no one has come in all panicked. (We didn’t see many people at all during our midday visit.) But Calomiris said everyone would likely begin cutting back if the shutdown stretches into a protracted showdown like the one that gripped the city nearly two decades ago.

“I remember that … business didn’t pick up immediately after,” he said of the sluggish sales he experienced in the wake of the GOP rebellion against President Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, Calomiris marveled at the fact that when mom-and-pops like his default on bills, things get real ugly, real fast.

“I know the government has a hard time resolving things. [But] if it was run like a business, things would be different,” he opined.

Given that Capitol Hill Fitness (725 Eighth St. SE), a free-form workout den, has only been open for a couple of months, fitness consultant Breelaun Marchai said it’s tough to gauge how his business will be affected long-term.

“No crazy changes yet,” he said.

Just to be safe, the shop has carved out a furlough special — half-off admission (that’s $5 for a 30-minute circuit, which includes 8-16 stations of full-body, low-impact challenges) for the duration of the shutdown.

Marchai hinted that their open-door policy — no membership required and no appointments necessary — should make it easy for anyone to fit a workout into their suddenly wide-open schedule.

Over at Capitol Hill Books (657 C St. SE), employee Jennifer Ellingston said she’s noticed a slight uptick in foot traffic.

“Well, of course people are coming in, because they’re not going to work,” she said.

Ellingston estimated that around a half-dozen furloughees popped in Tuesday in search of page-turners to occupy their time.

“There was a lot of, ‘Oh, you all are here because’ … [Them:] ‘Yes’ …, ” she said of the friendly patter that immediately ensued when the non-retirees (the store’s core daytime constituency) trickled in to wander the overcrowded stacks.

Even better: Each one of the surprise shoppers walked out of the store with a just-purchased title in hand.

Of course, infinite downtime isn’t panning out for everyone.

Capitol Hill Businesses Confounded by Shutdown

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Just ask the confused little girl we spotted fumbling with the locks barring her from frolicking in the Stanton Park playground.

Rand Paul Just Wants Bipartisan Coffee … and Maybe Some Photos of It

In these difficult times, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has asked his colleagues to join him Thursday for a nice, leisurely, comity-building bipartisan coffee … on the Capitol steps. Where anyone can take photographs.

Two Democratic sources passed along Paul’s “Dear Colleague” invitation, which was distributed over the Democratic Senate schedulers Listserv. Hopefully those schedulers are essential and still checking email!

The letter:

Rand Paul Just Wants Bipartisan Coffee ... and Maybe Some Photos of It

Rand Paul appointing himself the arbiter of bipartisanship is like Miley Cyrus appointing herself the arbiter of modesty,” says one of our snarky sources.

Overheard: Homeless Not Exempt From Shutdown

“I know it’s a shutdown, sir. But you can’t be laying back down.”

— A street vendor trying to rouse a homeless gent dozing on a Capitol Hill sidewalk

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...