Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 28, 2015

November 18, 2015

Congresswoman Left for Dead at Jonestown Recalls the Massacre, 37 Years Later

Jackie Speier, an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan, being taken from a plane at Georgetown on November 19, 1978, after its arrival from Jonestown where Speier was shot five times and Ryan and four others were ambushed and killed by members of the People's Temple.  Congressman Leo Ryan was leading a group that went to Guyana to investigate reports of abuse and human rights violations by the People's Temple and its leader, Jim Jones.  Fearing the results of the murders and further investigations into Jonestown, despite Leo Ryan's assertion that he was going to give a largely positive review of the People's Temple, Jim Jones led his followers in a ?revolutionary suicide?.  On November 18, 1978, 909 Temple members died, all but two of which from cyanide poisoning, forming the largest mass suicide in modern history. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

(Bettmann/Corbis /AP Images)

Rep. Jackie Speier knows exactly how it feels to be left for dead.

On Nov. 18, 1978, she was shot five times on a remote airstrip in Guyana, South America. Her boss, Rep. Leo J. Ryan and four others lay dead nearby, killed by gunfire as they tried to escape Jonestown, the commune built by cult leader Jim Jones.

Nearly 40 years later, Speier still remembers why she decided to get on a plane to go down on the ill-fated congressional trip.

“Back in 1978, there were not many women in high-ranking positions in Congress,” said Speier, who was legislative counsel for Ryan at the time. “I felt if I didn’t go, it would be a step back for women holding these high positions. I thought, ‘I can’t not go.’”

So she went, accompanying Ryan and 23 other people to Guyana, on the northeastern coast of South America, attempting to visit Jim Jones and nearly 1,000 followers he’d amassed.

By the end of the trip, Ryan was dead — the first and only congressman to be assassinated in office — along with three journalists and one cult defector. Speier and nine others had been shot and left for dead at a remote airstrip; they waited 22 hours for help to arrive.

Immediately following the shootings, Jones and more than 900 of his followers died from self-inflicted cyanide poisoning in what was seen as a mass suicide at the time, but is now widely considered a mass murder.

The Ryan congressional delegation had no military escort. The State Department had given neither a warning nor protection.

Speier has occupied Ryan’s former seat in Congress since 2008. In an interview with CQ Roll Call, she noted that while much has changed, some fundamental questions about Jonestown remain unanswered. Full story

Congress Scrambles for Response to Refugees, Paris Attacks

Ryan speaks Tuesday before signing the defense policy bill. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan speaks Tuesday before signing the defense policy bill. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Top Republican leaders in Congress called for a “pause” in allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, as lawmakers in both chambers scrambled for a response to the Paris terrorist attacks.

A House task force released a bill Tuesday directed at the vetting of refugees from Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State extremists have found safe havens.  While Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a halt to the refugee program, the House legislation instead seeks to enhance the certification process for these refugees.

Full story

House GOP Steering Proposal Could Deliver Results — Or Not

paul ryan

Ryan speaks Tuesday before signing the NDAA at the Capitol. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

When Speaker Paul D. Ryan facilitates a vote Thursday to reconfigure the Steering Committee, he will win points for delivering on his promise to expand member participation in the House Republican Conference.

But, despite currying favor with conservatives who want Ryan to give them a louder voice in leadership, not everyone is convinced the gesture will yield substantive results. Full story

November 17, 2015

House Bill Drafted to Enhance Vetting of Refugees

CQ Roll Call File Photo

CQ Roll Call File Photo

The House will vote Thursday to enhance oversight of the screening process for refugees from Syria and Iraq, but it will not consider legislation to “pause” the program sought by Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told reporters a post-Paris attacks task force has crafted a bill to create “a new certification process” for these refugees. It will be posted online later tonight and go before the Rules Committee Wednesday.

Full story

Paris Attacks Highlight 9/11 Health Care Bill

Sen. Mark S. Kirk was among the lawmakers calling attention to the expired 9/11 health program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk was among the lawmakers calling attention to the expired 9/11 health program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, first responders from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on American soil headed to the Capitol to push Congress to renew their health care programs.

New York firefighters and other first responders joined lawmakers at a Tuesday event calling for the World Trade Center Health Program, which expired on Sept. 30, and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, to be permanently extended. The Paris attacks and other potential attacks on the United States, they contended, demonstrate the need to prove the government is committed to taking care of first responders.

“It’s equally ironic that we sit here now, a few days after Paris had their 9/11, to take care of the folks who responded to ours,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said at the event. “What kind of message does it send to Americans if folks like this have to stand up in front of Congress and beg for health care support?” Full story

Ryan Calls for ‘Pause’ on Syrian Refugees

paris attacks

McCarthy is forming a legislative task force in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has asked the House to put together legislation this week responding to the Paris attacks and called for a “pause” in Syrian refugees coming to the United States.

“The way we look at this issue is … we have a refugee situation that we think requires a pause and a more comprehensive assessment on how to guarantee members of ISIS are not infiltrating themselves among the refugee population,” Ryan said Tuesday after the weekly closed-door GOP Conference meeting. Full story

Lawmakers Hit Secret Service on ‘Disturbing’ Culture

When the Secret Service circulated Chaffetz's file, it set off alarms with his fellow lawmakers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the Secret Service circulated Chaffetz’s file, it set off alarms with his fellow lawmakers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The U.S. Secret Service came under the congressional microscope once again Tuesday, with lawmakers seeking answers about agents who wrongly accessed a fellow congressman’s personnel file.

On Sept. 30, the agency’s inspector general released a report confirming that Secret Service employees accessed and circulated House Oversight and Government Affairs Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s 2003 application for a job at the agency, after Chaffetz’s probe of mishaps at the Secret Service. The incident prompted Homeland Security subcommittees of jurisdiction from the House and Senate to hold a joint hearing.

“The American people deserve answers,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency. “As disturbing as this incident is, it is only one example of other instances where Secret Service employees showed very poor judgment and leadership failed to act.” Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 12:26 p.m.

GOP Moves Forward With Sweeping Steering Panel Changes

steering committee

Ryan is ready to see his own influence diluted on the Steering Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans are moving forward with an ambitious and far-reaching plan to overhaul the membership and operation of the Steering Committee, with a vote expected Thursday.

It’s only the first in a series of changes to GOP operations that Paul D. Ryan promised upon his election as speaker. Full story

House’s Muslim Members Brace for Charged Terror Debate

UNITED STATES - MARCH 10: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., arrives to testify during the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response" on Thursday, March 10, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Ellison, in 2011, arrives to testify at a Homeland Security Committee hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response” (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Updated 5:30 p.m. | The two Muslim members of the House share the sentiments of their fellow Democrats: Under no circumstances should the United States block Syrian refugees from this country in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris..

But for Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and André Carson of Indiana, there’s a greater sense of urgency in how Congress responds to the violence at the hands of the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, that has a stranglehold in Syria. Full story

November 16, 2015

House Freedom Caucus Re-Elects Jordan as Chairman

house freedom caucus

Jordan was re-elected chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Monday evening. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Freedom Caucus unanimously re-elected Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Monday evening to serve as its chairman for 2016.

Members of the conservative caucus cast their votes in the basement of Tortilla Coast, the Capitol Hill restaurant where the group often gathers. Full story

Ryan Holds Moment of Silence for Victims of Paris Attacks

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan held a moment of silence on the floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As members of Congress debated on television shows and in news statements how to respond to the terrorist attacks in Paris, they paused Monday night to pay tribute to the victims.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., held a moment of silence on the House floor Monday at around 7 p.m. to honor the victims of the attacks. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 7:22 p.m.
Paul Ryan

Ryan Calls for Classified Briefings After Paris Attacks

paris terrorist attack

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan is laying the groundwork for the House’s active engagement in the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Wisconsin Republican asked the Obama administration to provide lawmakers with classified briefings in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 shootings and bombings carried out by Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, he said Monday morning in an interview on Bill Bennett’s radio program. Full story

Ryan Faces Political Test on Steering Panel Overhaul

Ryan at his first solo news conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan at his first solo news conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Paul D. Ryan passed his legislative test on the highway bill, but now he faces a more complicated political trial: making good on his promise to change internal GOP rules in a way that can unite the conference.

Before heading home for the Thanksgiving recess, the Wisconsin Republican and a seven-member task force will present their plan for restructuring the panel that recommends committee appointments to the GOP conference for its approval. House floor time could be taken up by highways and financial services legislation.

Full story

November 15, 2015

Ryan: ‘No Idea’ How Long I’ll Be Speaker

Ryan addresses the House. (Tom Williams, CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ryan addresses the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, after two weeks on the job, said he has “no idea” how long he may lead the House, committing only to the 14 months left in the current Congress during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

No matter the duration of his tenure, the Wisconsin Republican told Scott Pelley of CBS News he is willing to risk losing the job in pursuit of major policy initiatives including tax and entitlement overhauls. The speaker also said in the interview that aired Sunday he and President Barack Obama could find common ground on select issues.

Full story

November 12, 2015

Key Chairmen Could Be Booted From Steering Committee

Ryan holds his first weekly on-camera press conference Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Every committee chairperson could soon have a voice in who gets appointed to his or her panel, according to a proposal to revamp the Steering Committee that’s being mulled by Speaker Paul D. Ryan and a seven-member task force.

But there’s a catch: The six chairmen who already have permanent seats on the Steering Committee would have to step aside. Full story

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...