Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Posts in "Culture of Congress"

January 20, 2016

Unnoticed, Grassley Sets Record for Most Time Without a Missed Senate Vote


lynch011215

Grassley, center, has set a Senate record.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When you talk in political circles about an Iowa endurance test, a reference to the presidential caucuses looming in a dozen days is unmistakable. Use the phrase at the Capitol, though, and the meaning may point elsewhere.

Charles E. Grassley, with his inimitable personality blend that’s equal parts cantankerous and friendly independent-mindedness, manages to avoid spending too much time in fundraising call rooms, hearing the pleadings of lobbyists or dropping by charity dinners. (He’s steadfastly resisted a blizzard of entreaties that he endorse a fellow Republican before his home state votes, for example.)

Full story

January 6, 2016

Obama Preps Last Prime Time Address to Congress


Once more with feeling. Obama is preparing his last State of the Union Address. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Once more with feeling. Obama is preparing his last State of the Union Address. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Perhaps the surest prediction about the next State of the Union Address is that it’s going to be the last speech afforded that lofty title for fully two years.

The second reliable forecast is that on the night of Jan. 12, President Barack Obama will take a non-traditional approach to his final annual appearance before a joint session of Congress. Full story

December 1, 2015

The Tall (and Expensive) Tale of the Capitol Christmas Tree


UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 30 - The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is seen on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Monday, November 30, 2015. This year's tree, a 74 feet Lutz tree is from Chugach National Forest in Alaska and will be lit on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Christmas will light up on Wednesday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

It may be an unstoppably powerful combination: The seemingly unbridled expansion of everything about “the holidays,” and the perception that even the most modest and benign government program will eventually spiral out of control.

This is in no way a “bah, humbug” screed; the family has been making an annual pilgrimage to the West Lawn since the 1980s, and we’re eager to repeat the ritual again in the coming weeks. But just maybe there’s a cautionary tale woven into the history of the Capitol Christmas Tree. Full story

November 19, 2015

Bill Shuster Wants ‘Like Father, Like Son’ Moment


bill shuster

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When negotiators on the highway and mass transit bill formally convened Wednesday, it took only a few minutes for them to cut their first deal: Rep. Bill Shuster was named chairman of the conference committee.

The decision further cements the Pennsylvania Republican’s standing as one of the most prominent legislators of the year — and it raises the stakes for his performance in the next few weeks.

A new set of policies and payments for public works, six years overdue, is now tantalizingly close to becoming one of the biggest achievements in the first year of the 114th Congress. Shuster made clear at the conferees’ opening session he will press hard for an agreement soon after next week’s holiday recess.

“So, staff on both sides of the aisle, happy Thanksgiving,” he said.

It’s a moment he’s been preparing for throughout his three years at the helm of the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel. But he began his schooling for this time as a boy, aided by the example and perhaps the genetics of his father. Full story

November 15, 2015

House Conservative Favorite Eyes Unusual Career Switch


trey gowdy

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The path from the legislative to the executive branch is as well-worn as usual, with five senators and a former senator now hoping to succeed another onetime senator as president and 15 former members joining the Cabinets of the Obama and George Bush administrations.

The route between the legislative and judicial branches, by contrast, is as weeded-over as it’s ever been. No one has gone from Congress to the federal bench in 30 years, and the last Supreme Court justice with any congressional experience retired in 1971.

The natures of those political trajectories might not remain as diametrically different for all that much longer. Full story

November 5, 2015

What the 2016 Calendar Says About Congress


Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agree on at least one thing: a long August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agree on at least one thing: a long August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Decades of waiting on the arrival of the annual congressional calendar and then poring over the details affords Hill long-timers a nuanced appreciation of the myriad political calculations and logistical limitations that go in to setting the Capitol’s timetable for an entire year.

Inside the stretches of legislating followed by the bursts of recess, the schedules for 2016 announced this week by the Republican top brass in the House and Senate offer some quirky rhythms and unexpected sequences that give insight into the hectic election year ahead. Here are five messages delivered by the new diary. Full story

November 4, 2015

The Ryan Rule: Whose Portrait Is Next?


From left, Pelosi, Rep. Eric Cantor, Boehner, and Hastert at Hastert's portrait unveiling in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

From left, Pelosi, Rep. Eric Cantor, Boehner, and Hastert at Hastert’s portrait unveiling in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just days into the job, Speaker Paul D. Ryan has now made two decisions that deliver a powerful signal about how he’ll be the institutional steward of the House.

First, by declaring he’ll keep sleeping in his office, and now by having J. Dennis Hastert’s ceremonial portrait carted off to oblivion, Ryan is sending a clear message about his priorities: Trying for a short-term boost in the abysmal reputation of Congress — by using symbolic gestures that are easy for the electorate to understand — is more important than shielding the long-term reputation and historical stature of the legislative branch. Full story

November 3, 2015

The Mixed Symbolism of Paul Ryan Sleeping in His Office


UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 28: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., leaves a  House Republican Conference meeting in Longworth Building where he was nominated as their Speaker of the House candidate, October 28, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan has no intention of paying rent off campus. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Many colorful “firsts” are accompanying Paul D. Ryan into the speakership. Most are distinctions from his past he can do nothing to alter: The only Wisconsinite to ever preside over the House, the first who’s been Ways and Means chairman, waited tables on Capitol Hill or toiled as a House staffer.

There’s one symbolically important aspect of his present life, however, that’s also unprecedented among House speakers — and that he may be pressed to change:

He sleeps in his office. Full story

October 22, 2015

Ryan Sacrifices Job Security With Eye Toward Long Game


One and done for Ryan? (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

One and done for Ryan? (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

What’s the best job security Paul D. Ryan can hope for, even if the Republican malcontents hold their fire long enough and he becomes speaker of the House?

That would be one year. Fourteen months, at the outside. Full story

October 20, 2015

Gridlock Greets Mondale on Return to D.C.


Mondale visited the Capitol in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mondale visited the Capitol in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Tuesday’s symposium on the legacy of Walter Mondale, the former vice president and power-player senator, offers a fresh rationale for considering a smartly argued report that’s gone largely overlooked in all this fall’s congressional news.

The white paper, released last month by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, concludes that congressional polarization has spread gridlock so widely and deeply beyond the Capitol that it’s gummed up the works significantly for the executive branch as well. Full story

October 10, 2015

Next Speaker Unlikely to Continue Long String of Leadership Insiders


Ryan, right, has policy chops but scant leadership experience. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan, right, has policy chops but scant leadership experience. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Oct. 13, 12 p.m. | There may be plenty of good reasons why Republicans are now seeking a “fresh face” as House speaker. But picking from outside the existing chain of command would also create some big challenges.

It also would be highly unusual. It’s been nearly a century since someone was chosen to preside over the House without ever occupying a lower rung in the leadership. The past 16 speakers, in other words, have won with serious insider credentials — even when political common sense has pointed to the selection of a certified outsider. Full story

October 9, 2015

House Republicans Cement Quarter-Century Lock on Melodrama at the Top


Boehner xxx (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boehner ascended to the speakership in 2011. It hasn’t been as smooth since. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

These two weeks have been an intense reminder about how unstable the speakership of the House has become. Thursday put a shocking spotlight on another reality: Republicans have had nothing but unexpected heartache in choosing their own leaders in the past quarter-century.

The congressional world has continued to turn, and the party has managed to regain power after losing it, but not without enduring some of the most melodramatic episodes in memory during times of leadership transition in the House GOP.

This was highlighted with exceptional clarity by Kevin McCarthy’s out-of-the-blue decision to abandon his quest to become speaker, even as he stood minutes away from winning the nomination of his colleagues with the support of perhaps 80 percent of his caucus. His announcement made him, in all but the most official terms, the second out of the past four anointed Republican candidates for the top job in the House who has taken himself out of the running at effectively the final hour. Full story

October 7, 2015

Young Man in a Hurry, Chaffetz Now Positioned for a Longer Game


Chaffetz has his eye on a promotion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Chaffetz has his eye on a promotion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Jason Chaffetz will bring a chameleon political background and unremitting ambition into Thursday’s caucus of Republicans with his eyes on the prize — just not this time.

The fourth-term congressman from central Utah is not only looking three weeks ahead. He’s also thinking about 13 months from now, and also two years after that. Full story

October 5, 2015

Scorched Senate Tactics Limiting Cruz’s Options, Top Prize Excepted


Cruz has alienated many Senate colleagues (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz has alienated many Senate colleagues. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The questions about Ted Cruz in the Senate no longer start with whether he’s got even a couple of friends left among fellow Republicans. The answer, after a public shaming on the floor last week, sure looks like a “no.”

As to whether he’s bothered by his deepening isolation in the Capitol, that’s just as easily answered in the negative. To the contrary, he’s acting as though it’s one of the best things going for him in his presidential campaign. Full story

September 30, 2015

Ambition, Achievement, Tenure: House’s Team of GOP Rivals Long on Just One


Scalise, right, and McCarthy, have scant few legislative achievements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Scalise, right, and McCarthy, have few legislative achievements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This much has become clear about the still-evolving scramble to reconfigure the House Republican leadership: Only white males will end up occupying the top three positions of power. They’re all going to hail from the Sun Belt. At least two, but perhaps all three, will have been in Congress for fewer than a dozen years.

And not one of them will have an established reputation for either legislative accomplishment or expertise in any particular area of public policy. Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

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

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...