Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 21, 2014

Posts by Bridget Bowman

8 Posts

August 12, 2014

Portraits of Committee Chairmen: They’re Up the Wall

mica003 0729142 440x302 Portraits of Committee Chairmen: Theyre Up the Wall

Mica in front of his portrait in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee room. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A House chairman usually ends up hanging around the committee room years after he or she retires.

No, the former chairman is not roaming the room per se, clinging to the halcyon days of wielding the gavel. Rather, it is the lawmaker’s image that will watch over the committee in the time-honored tradition of committee chairman portraits.

“You’re going to provide a legacy for them, a part of their legacy which will hang for hundreds of years,” said Ann Fader, president and CEO of Portrait Consultants, which has been commissioning chairmen portraits for the past 20 years. “It takes a lot of discussion and a lot of preparation” Full story

August 5, 2014

Capitol Hill Langar Highlights Sikh American Community

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A woman dons a patka head cover during a Sikh langar, a group dinner of vegetarian fare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:19 a.m. | While the week before August recess included some late nights for members of Congress, a few lawmakers and scores of staffers were able to take a break from the final votes to attend the first langar on Capitol Hill.

Langar is a 500-year-old tradition in the Sikh religion that emphasizes equality. Attendees sit on the floor and share the same meal, regardless of socioeconomic and racial divides.

“You hear about a faith, you hear about a set of values, but we want people to actually experience that and experience sitting next to whoever it is next to them, regardless of their background, and sharing a meal,” said Amrita Bamrah, one of the event’s organizers. Full story

August 4, 2014

Gene Callahan, Father of Rep. Bustos and Former Senate Chief of Staff, Dies at 80

Era Eugene “Gene” Callahan, father of Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and former chief of staff to the late Sen. Alan Dixon, passed away early Monday morning at the age of 80.

 Gene Callahan, Father of Rep. Bustos and Former Senate Chief of Staff, Dies at 80

Gene Callahan, courtesy of the office of Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.

Callahan was a staple in Illinois politics for more than 40 years. He began his professional career as a reporter, covering crime and politics, and also worked as a columnist.

He first foray into politics was as an assistant press secretary for Illinois Gov. Sam Shapiro, and he then went on to serve as press secretary for Lt. Gov. Paul Simon and worked as Simon’s chief of staff in the U.S. Senate. It was when he was working for Simon that Callahan developed a close friendship with Richard J. Durbin, the current Illinois senator and Senate majority whip.

“I never made an important decision in my political life without calling Gene,” Durbin said in a statement. “He was totally honest, painfully candid, and completely loyal. You knew that if the world turned on you, Gene would be the last person standing by your side.” Full story

July 30, 2014

The Calm Before the Pre-Recess Storm

coal presser022 073014 440x297 The Calm Before the Pre Recess Storm

Rose, left, and McConnell went to spread the word about the “War on Coal.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As House and Senate leadership scrambled to reach agreements on legislation to address the Veterans Affairs backlog, reauthorizing transportation programs and the influx of Central Americans at the Southern border before they adjourned for recess, Barbara Halpern-Levin, wife of Sen. Carl Levin, paused calmly in the middle of the Capitol Crypt.

The Michigan Democrat’s wife was giving a tour of the Capitol to a relative visiting from Florida, and she provided a serene contrast to Wednesday’s back-door buzz. In a brief interview with CQ Roll Call, the senator’s wife said she would need to check her schedule before deciding whether to take the visiting relative to watch either chambers’ final votes.

Lawmakers noted the relatively calm atmosphere around the Hill, even as the House prepared to debate a resolution authorizing the chamber to sue President Barack Obama. Full story

July 21, 2014

Muslim on Capitol Hill: Staffers Look to Rebuild

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Staffers participate in a Friday prayer session in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As rain pelted the capital, more than 200 Muslim Americans gathered in the Cannon House Office Building to break their daily fast.

They are in the midst of Ramadan, the annual monthlong period of fasting from sunup to sundown.

For the Muslim staffers and government employees gathered for a traditional dinner known as an iftar, the night was also a chance to connect with members of Congress and network with other D.C. professionals. “To have this iftar dinner and to do it here in the Capitol, where you belong, where we all belong, was a very smart thing to start,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told the crowd.

Although 200 participants was no small number for the July 10 celebration, the iftar in 2009 drew an estimated 1,000 people to the Hill, thanks in part to an active Congressional Muslim Staff Association. The group was formed in 2006 and regularly held networking events and briefings on the Muslim community.

A few years later, in the 113th Congress, the CMSA did not even list itself as an official association — due to a turnover in leadership, lack of participation and what some regarded as a backlash against Muslim staffers. While the organization is taking steps to re-register as an official association, it is definitely in rebuilding mode.

Former CMSA members are optimistic the staff association will make a comeback as younger staffers step into leadership roles, but there’s a broader problem: attracting young Muslims to Capitol Hill in the first place.

Full story

May 30, 2014

Muslim Youth Group Meets With Members of Congress

Roughly 250 young men wearing identical black and white uniforms roamed the halls of the House office buildings Friday, encountering curious tourists and members of Congress along the way.

The young men were members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association and they were on Capitol Hill to meet with nearly 50 members of Congress to address their efforts to combat hunger in the U.S.

“We came to Capitol Hill not to ask but to give,” said AMYA President Bilal Rana at a news conference after the meetings. “We want to help feed the hungry in America and we asked Congress to help us identify organizations in the districts of those congressmen that we can work with, who can help us achieve our goal of feeding one million hungry Americans.” Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 3:38 p.m.

May 21, 2014

‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ Film Premieres, but Democrats Take No Questions

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‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ has been championed by Democrats like Sanders as they talk about needing to reform campaign finance law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Call it a screening, a press conference, a meeting, or a get-together of like-minded friends. Regardless, the [insert event term here] for the “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition” documentary still happened Tuesday evening in the Capitol Visitors Center despite Republican accusations of Democratic impropriety.

“The Koch brothers’ tentacles have sunken deep into our democracy and deep into the Republican Party,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the few dozen interested people and reporters in attendance.  “That’s evident by the fact they even tried to stop us from having this meeting.”

Controversy swirled around the screening as Republicans charged that the event focusing on billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch violated rules about film premieres on Capitol grounds. Democrats responded that the rules did not apply to the room in the CVC and that the event was a press conference.

But a press release characterized the event as a screening.  Although the release advertised a Q&A with Pelosi and Reid, neither took questions after their speeches.

Full story

May 16, 2014

With Obama’s Signature, Height Act Change Becomes Law

DCbuildings 008 120213 440x249 With Obamas Signature, Height Act Change Becomes Law

Issa, right, and Norton, center, sponsored legislation altering the Height Act that was enacted on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama signed the Height Act Friday, which changed the more-than-century-old law to allow “human occupancy of penthouses built above the statutory height limits of buildings in the District of Columbia,” according to a White House release.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif, introduced the legislation, which allows rooftop structures, including pools and restaurants, to reach a maximum of 20 feet above the current height limit.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., was a co-sponsor and said in a statement, “I am pleased that the Mayor and Council Chair reached an agreement that allowed the bill to move forward.  The bill, which moved smoothly through Congress and was signed by the President, is a good example of a home-rule bill.”


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