Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 3, 2015

Posts in "Culture of Congress"

July 14, 2015

Confederate Flag Debate Is Historic Test for Boehner

Boehner xxx (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner has made himself clear on Confederate flag imagery. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When things get particularly rocky, John A. Boehner sometimes tries to assert control by reminding people he is “speaker of the whole House,” meaning his responsibilities as institutional steward can trump his role as Republican-in-chief.

If there were ever an important opportunity to stand firmly behind that part of his job description, this summer’s extraordinarily raw debate about legacies of the Civil War is that time. Full story

July 8, 2015

Hill’s Spending on Itself Set on Cautious Course

The Capitol Dome's restoration is one of the things lawmakers must fund in the legislative branch appropriations that handle congressional spending.

The Capitol Dome’s restoration is funded in the legislative branch appropriations bill dealing with congressional spending. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The end of the fiscal year is still a dozen weeks in the future, but already a shutdown showdown looks inevitable. For circumstantial evidence, look no further than the floor schedules for this month. None of the 12 annual spending bills will get a shot at passing the Senate, while the House will give up on the appropriations calendar with four measures in limbo.

But those who work on Capitol Hill can breathe much more easily than many. They, at least, already have a strong measure of certainty about the coming year. Bills setting the budgets for running Congress and its satellite agencies in the coming year have already been endorsed, in remarkably similar form, by the entire House and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Full story

June 25, 2015

Senate Showing Its Age Lately, Mostly to the Good (Video)

At 82, Feinstein is the oldest member of the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At 82, Feinstein is the oldest member of the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate seems as dinged up as ever this summer. Is it coincidence, or are senators just getting older?

It’s both. So there’s no reason to become alarmed that some wave of infirmity is taking over the place, just because three of its hundred members have gone public with a significant health challenge in recent weeks. Full story

June 21, 2015

Four Nominees From Hill History for New Face on $10

Chisholm could be a contender for the new $10 bill. Her portrait was dedicated in March 2009, with Reps. Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Chisholm could be a contender for the new $10 bill. Her portrait was dedicated in March 2009, with Reps. Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s not a female face on our paper currency, which the U.S. Treasury is now promising to change. There is also no one on our money who’s distinguished because of service in Congress. The Obama administration has viable options for rectifying both shortcomings simultaneously with its choice for new portraiture on the $10 bill.

A strong case can be made that the visage for our monetary future should be Jeannette Rankin, the first congresswoman. Or Margaret Chase Smith, the first female to serve in congressional leadership. Or Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress. Or Barbara Jordan , a singular voice of congressional conscience during the constitutional crisis of Watergate. Full story

June 11, 2015

The Democrats’ Ace by Night, Pivotal Trade Vote by Day

Richmond at the 2013 Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Richmond, seen here at the 2013 Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, is under pressure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rare is the moment when so much attention is focused simultaneously on the same member of Congress for two totally different reasons. But the end of this week marks that time of trial, both athletically and legislatively, for Rep. Cedric L. Richmond.

On Thursday night, his fellow Democrats will be counting on him to repeat what he’s done in each of the previous four years since arriving to represent New Orleans in the House: Pitch his party to victory in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

Full story

June 8, 2015

Going to the Baseball Game? Sit in the Middle

Staffer fans cheer for their preferred party at the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Staffer fans cheer for their preferred party at the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s not too late to make plans to be part of one of the great set pieces of a Washington summer.

The 54th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game is Thursday night. Attending can be a fine antidote for much of the toxic polarization suffusing the Capitol Hill work day, a tonic for cleansing the political mind of ideologically combative thoughts.

Full story

June 3, 2015

Hastert’s Past Informs Boehner’s Disciplined Course

Hastert, right, and Boehner, seen here in 2009, have very different speakership styles. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hastert, right, and Boehner, seen here in 2009, have very different speakership styles. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Maybe one thing would be more shocking to Hill long-timers than the lurid criminal charges confronting the previous Republican speaker of the House: A personal scandal taking down the current Republican speaker of the House.

John A. Boehner has worked assiduously to bring a glass-house lifestyle to the Capitol. He’s been a dogmatic behind-the-scenes disciplinarian with GOP colleagues who have lost their moral bearings. So it’s almost impossible to imagine he’d get caught in the same sort of misbehavior for which he’s shown zero tolerance among the troops. Full story

May 21, 2015

Members Living in Their Offices Rent-Free Adds Up

Member of Congress who sleep in their offices are getting a nice little taxpayer benefit. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Member of Congress who sleep in their offices are effectively getting a little taxpayer benefit. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Joaquin Castro knows a little about real estate, in part because his twin, Julian, is secretary of Housing and Urban Development. So after winning a safely Democratic seat three years ago, he decided buying a condo on the Hill was a smart investment.

He soon started noticing, when walking home at night, how many windows in the darkened House office buildings emanated a distinctive bluish light. Castro guesses the number of his colleagues inside, watching TV while falling asleep, has only grown and easily tops 50 these days.

“I’ve been joking with my brother,” the San Antonio congressman says with a broad grin, “that he should have HUD designate this place a public housing project.” Full story

May 20, 2015

Member Pay Freeze Likely to Last Close to a Decade

Congressional salaries aren't going up any time soon. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional salaries aren’t going up any time soon. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As one of their final acts before the Memorial Day break, members of Congress have begun their annual ritual combining financial self-flagellation with electoral self-preservation.

The burst of loud whining from a cluster of safe-seat members — “We aren’t being paid properly!” complains 12th-term Democratic Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of South Florida — didn’t slow things down a bit.

The House passed the annual legislative branch spending bill Tuesday, with language extending the congressional salary freeze for a seventh consecutive year. On the very safe assumption the Senate agrees, the measure will assure the longest period in half a century members will go without a raise.

Full story

May 14, 2015

Carper’s High-Test Week, on Two Very Different Tracks

Carper was one of the Democrats summoned to the White House to resurrect the trade deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Carper was one of the Democrats summoned to the White House to resurrect the trade deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Thomas R. Carper is having one heck of a week.

Even the most soft-spoken congressional workhorse can expect to end up with an occasional moment in the spotlight. Rarely does a senator with as low a profile as the Delaware Democrat end up in the national headlines twice in a few hours — and for two totally different reasons.

Full story

May 10, 2015

After Supercharged Start, Tom Cotton Stands Alone (Video)

Cotton heads to the Senate amid the Iran debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cotton heads to the Senate amid the Iran debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tom Cotton marks two milestones this week. As of Monday, more than half of his senatorial career will have elapsed (63 days!) since his pugilistic letter warning Iran against cutting a nuclear deal with the Obama administration. And Wednesday is the Arkansas Republican’s 38th birthday, another reminder he’s the youngest senator in two decades.

Those twin occasions provide an opportunity to note just how unusually hot and fast Cotton’s start has been. Even in a Senate where newcomers no longer feel obligated to bide their time or defer to their elders, as they did for so much of history, just four months of combativeness may have determined the personality of Cotton’s entire congressional life — no matter how long it lasts. Full story

April 26, 2015

Signs of Life, but Don’t Expect Bipartisan Bloom

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Don’t expect this to happen much this year. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

If there was ever a sound reason for a congressional leader from one party to plant a kiss on the cheek of a leader from the other side, it was in the Rose Garden last week.

Solving a multibillion-dollar problem that bedeviled Congress for a dozen years (inadequate Medicare reimbursements to physicians) is the only genuinely important bipartisan achievement of the 114th Congress to date. When Speaker John A. Boehner smooched a beaming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a celebratory reception hosted by President Barack Obama, it was a visual cue about the extraordinary nature of the moment, for which the two frequent partisan antagonists shared principal credit.

Nothing remotely as consequential — or even out of the ordinary by once-customary standards for measuring congressional behavior — has happened this year. That’s worth observing at a time when so many politicians, columnists and political scientists are talking glowingly about the Capitol’s rhythms starting to return to normal.

Such declarations about signs of healthy legislative life this spring are mostly overwrought, somewhat premature and potentially counterproductive. Full story

April 23, 2015

A Few Delegations Newly Punching Above Their Weight

McConnell's stature has pushed Kentucky higher in the Roll Call Clout Index than it should be given its population. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

McConnell’s stature has pushed Kentucky higher in the Roll Call Clout Index than it should be given its population. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals that, even more than before, the largest potential for influence belongs to the states with the most people and therefore the biggest delegations. So it’s worth paying special attention to the smaller places with lawmaker contingents positioned to punch highest above their weight.

Maryland, at 19th in population with 5.8 million residents, is the only midsize or small state to crack the top 10, for reasons detailed in the initial piece about our calculations for the 114th Congress. One way of viewing the statistic is that the sway of the state’s lawmakers is nine notches better than where all the people they represent stand in population rank. And nearing Maryland’s standing are three significantly smaller delegations even more dramatically positioned to bring back victories disproportionate to their clout ranking. Full story

April 22, 2015

Delegation Clout Shifts in Aftermath of Earmark Era

Jeb Hensarling's Texas and Boehner's Ohio are enjoying strong rankings on the Roll Call Clout Index. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Jeb Hensarling’s Texas and Boehner’s Ohio have high rankings on the Roll Call Clout Index. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Four years after lawmakers gave up earmarking, the last of the billions once dedicated to pet projects has effectively been spent, and one result is a changed roster of states laying claim to the most clout in Congress.

Talking smack about which delegations pack the biggest punch, and which ones are relative weaklings, has been a Hill pastime for ages. For the past 25 years, Roll Call has contributed to the conversation by making quantifiable measurements of every state’s potential sway near the star of each new Congress.

Full story

April 13, 2015

Four Reasons Republicans Seem Reticent in Menendez Case

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s the first federal bribery indictment of a sitting senator in almost a quarter century, and the defendant is among the most combative and combustible Democrats in the Capitol. So why have Republicans spent the better part of the past two weeks with their hands over their mouths?

There are four plausible reasons for their relative silence about the travails of Robert Menendez. They boil down to concerns about political expedience, foreign policy, self preservation and campaign finance. Full story

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