Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 9, 2015

September 17, 2015

Hail From the Chief: Presidential Letter to Roll Call

Roll Call is celebrating 60 years of congressional coverage in style, with a birthday letter from President Barack Obama.

Full story

How Congressional Power Has Balanced Since 1955

Rayburn, center, and Johnson, right, seen here in 1961 with President John F. Kennedy, were two of the powerful Texas Democrats who defined congressional leadership in the middle of the century. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rayburn, center, and Johnson, right, seen here in 1961 with President John F. Kennedy, were two of the powerful Texas Democrats who defined congressional leadership in the middle of the century. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The first pages of Roll Call landed on Capitol Hill in 1955, coinciding with the beginning of a remarkable run of stability in party control of Congress, particularly when compared to the turbulence of post-World War II and post 9/11 elections.

Sam Rayburn, the iconic Democrat from Texas, was elected speaker again that January after Democrats regained House control in the midterms. While the current, 5-year-old Republican House majority could last until at least the next redistricting, it would be 40 years after the 1954 elections before Democrats would start a new Congress in the minority, or even with fewer than the 232 representatives with which it began the 84th. Full story

Well Here We Are, Redux

The original "ROLL CALL" sign at the first office. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The original Roll Call sign at the first office. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In simple terms, a roll call is the calling of names to check attendance or the casting of a vote. It’s a significant means of taking notice. For a publication called Roll Call, it’s how we maintain our compass.

“We’d like to make ROLL CALL completely representative of all facets of Hill life,” founder Sid Yudain wrote in the newspaper’s first issue. As Roll Call continues observing its 60th anniversary and joins our CQ brethren in celebrating their 70th anniversary, we’re taking the roll to see if we’ve maintained true to our founding, but also met the challenge of new eras.

A lot has changed since Yudain wrote that first issue’s editorial with the headline, “Well, Here We Are.” We strive, however, to make sure we’re still recognizable through the decades. Full story

Roll Call Alumni Look Back on the Congressional Beat

Roll Call staff in June 2005, next door to the office. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Roll Call staff in June 2005, next door to the office. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Roll Call has published recollections from several alumni this year in commemoration of the paper’s 60th anniversary. Here are several more who provide the backstory to covering Capitol Hill for its community newspaper:

Susan Davis, NPR congressional correspondent

Roll Call: What was your favorite or most memorable story or interview?

It was with Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., but not because of the interview itself. I was interviewing him along with Lauren Whittington in September 2006 for a profile on the lawmakers competing to be the next [National Republican Congressional Committee] chairman. It was during the interview that the Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., scandal broke about his online communications with teenage boys in the page program. And I remember glancing at my BlackBerry, which was just blowing up next to me, and trying to both manage the interview but also try to wrap up as quickly as possible to go chase the Foley story. Cole ultimately won the NRCC race after the election that cost the GOP the majority, partly because of Foley and the “culture of corruption” narrative Democrats successfully employed.

RC: What was the biggest congressional scandal during your tenure?

There were so many, it felt like that was all we covered! I was at Roll Call during the era of GOP Reps. Tom DeLay, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Bob Ney, Rick Renzi, Charles Taylor, John Sweeney, and Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson and Jack Murtha. It was the earmarks and Abramoff era and it kept the copy flowing and the newsroom humming. It was a remarkable time to be covering the Hill. And Roll Call — with due credit to my still-friends and then-colleagues John Bresnahan, Paul Kane and John Stanton — broke a ton of news on those stories. We were at the top of our game then, and it was such a relevant, vibrant place to be.

Paul Singer, USA Today Washington correspondent

RC: What was your favorite or most memorable story or interview?

So many to choose from! Clearly my coverage of Jack Murtha’s earmark factory was the defining story of my tenure, but my favorite story was discovering the secret permanent Treasury Department account that pays for CODEL travel. It had long been rumored, but nobody had figured out where it lived. I found it, and was able to tally the millions of dollars Congress was charging taxpayers for foreign travel without any public disclosure or even any budget. The headline “Members Fly Free Abroad” and the lede: “Members of Congress and their staff racked up almost $15 million worth of foreign travel in 2009, but Congress didn’t have to pay the tab.”

RC: Do you have a funny story about Congress or Roll Call, or covering Congress for Roll Call?

The best Roll Call story remains NOMA-geddon — the day the power went out in the neighborhood (including to our servers) at around 3 p.m. We moved everything we could carry to the Hall of States, rented a conference room, retyped stories off of page proofs recovered from the recycle bins and laid out the paper on a template from a joke farewell front page that somebody had saved on their laptop.

The newspaper that arrived in the marble halls of Congress the next morning looked just like the papers that had arrived every day previously — and it was only because of an extraordinary team effort I have never seen elsewhere.

John McArdle, C-SPAN host/producer

RC: What was your favorite or most memorable story or interview?

JM: Getting outside D.C. to cover members and challengers on the campaign trail was the best perk of working for Roll Call’s Politics desk. I tasted homemade “creek water” at the annual Hillbilly Days festival in Pikeville, Ky. I pulled over somewhere along an empty road in Southwest Georgia to find out what cotton feels like before it’s picked. I got lost in a box of 50-year-old scripts of the “Delmarva Jamboree” at an aging radio studio on the outskirts of Pocomoke City, Md. I took a muddy, smelly, 4 a.m. tour of a Virginia dairy farm (alongside a crew from Japanese Public Television) during a 24-hour get-out-the-vote push by one former member. I loved the camaraderie of being in the Roll Call newsroom, but the road trips provided the best memories.

RC: Do you have a funny story about Congress or Roll Call, or covering Congress for Roll Call?

JM: Roll Call’s Politics section had a column called “Under the Radar” reserved for interesting candidates who never had a real chance of winning. During the two cycles I covered campaigns for Roll Call I hold the distinction of being the only reporter to feature a candidate in that column who went on to win his or her race. Less than two months before former Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao won his election in Louisiana, I used the terms “sacrificial lamb” and “pipe dream” in the article I wrote about him. I was wrong.

Josh Kurtz, Environment & Energy Daily editor

JK: Favorite stories I edited? A great Lauren Whittington piece from probably 2003 about Jerry Springer, when he was thinking about running for Senate in Ohio. Lauren’s early 2004 coverage of Obama’s Senate primary was terrific and groundbreaking, too.

RC: What was the most prominent legislative issue of the era?

JK: The Iraq War, probably. It reverberated for years, on the Hill and in countless campaigns. Though some of the legislative fights of the early Obama era, like health care and cap and trade, were also epic.

RC: Do you have a funny story about Congress or Roll Call, or covering Congress for Roll Call?

JK: So many. Right off the bat maybe I’ll mention the time Sheila Jackson Lee called Roll Call Editor Charlie Mitchell to complain after somebody — maybe in an HOH column — called her a “serial mourner.”

Shira Center, Boston Globe political editor

RC: What was your favorite or most memorable story or interview?

SC: Favorite story: Arlen Specter’s party switch. It broke the Roll Call website.

Favorite interview: Sarah Palin before she was famous (or whatever she is now).

Strangest interview: Patrick Kennedy, several weeks before he went to rehab (the second time).

Most defiant interview: Jesse Jackson Jr., about three months before he went to rehab.

RC: Do you have a funny story about Congress or Roll Call, or covering Congress for Roll Call?

SC: I’m not sure these are appropriate for print. There was the time a congressman asked me what a tea bagger was. Another time a congressman tried to set me up with his recently divorced colleague in the delegation (he was about 25 years my senior). And then there was the time I drove two hours in a snow storm with Dennis Kucinich, who told me he loved Katy Perry’s song, “Firework,” because it’s inspirational.

Meredith Shiner, Yahoo political correspondent

MS: I’ll never forget my first conversation with then Editor-in-Chief Scott Montgomery when he was trying to convince me to work at Roll Call. It was June 2011 and we were sitting on a bench in Union Station. I was 24 and not sure I wanted to stay in journalism (who among us is 100 percent of the time?). After I was done airing out my professional angst, Scott looked at me and said, “Meredith, if you’re not having fun in this business, you’re not doing it right. It’s supposed to be fun.” He promised me that if I came to work at Roll Call, it would be. And Scott Montgomery was a man of his word because it was. Of course, anyone who tries to tell you journalism isn’t a sometimes grating, often capricious bitch of a business is lying — the need to turn a profit complicates our professional lives immensely. But I think the beauty of Roll Call, and what I choose to remember about my time there, is that we were going to have fun kicking the shit out of Congress or die trying.

When I close my eyes, I am in a pod in the corner of the CQ Roll Call newsroom, sitting with Steven Dennis and John Stanton and David Drucker and Humberto Sanchez, being watched over by an inflatable Jesus wearing a Burger King crown, breaking stories and endlessly harassing each other in the process. I can’t imagine a crew more motley than ours, but despite our differences we shared one important attribute: We were in on the joke. Covering our federal government is serious business, but you can’t take yourselves or all the characters involved too seriously. Because what’s the fun in that?

There were plenty of stories I was proud to have filed for Roll Call — from breaking news on the debt ceiling fight of 2011 to long-form political features to crazy Heard on the Hill posts and co-authoring our Senate blog. I also happened to be the resident obscure congressional sports writer of my era and permanent Congressional Baseball Game beat writer. (I blame Paul Singer for that last part.) But what I treasure most about Roll Call was not what we did, but how we did it. Our staff was undoubtedly smaller than those of our rivals, but we never felt out of the game. The long-held reputation of Roll Call is that it served as the farm team for the nation’s great news outlets. And I think that’s right, not just because of the people who once worked there (people much more accomplished and talented than me, I might add), but because of the attitude of the place. There’s a famous line from the best movie ever made about a minor league baseball team, “Bull Durham”: “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.” If you tacked on one more phrase to that, “but every day you make a paper,” then I think that’s the perfect Roll Call tagline. I am honored to have worked there.

For more anniversary coverage, go to:

See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call’s new video site.

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Well, Here We Are | Roll Call’s First Editorial


By Sid Yudain

This editorial was published in the first edition of Roll Call on June 16, 1955.

Publication of the first issue of ROLL CALL marks the first time in the recorded history of Capitol Hill that a newspaper has appeared dedicated entirely to the people and the activities of our little community.

We’ve done a lot of talking about ROLL CALL, frankly in the hope of receiving some encouragement for the undertaking. We were met with more skepticism than we would like to admit. But, then, it is hard to visualize something entirely new and different, something that must be created out of whole cloth and thin air.

Well, here we are, and here you are, and we hope you’ll like us. Full story

September 10, 2015

Amanda Becker on Covering Congressional Ethics at Roll Call

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This is part of a series of reflections from alumni journalists for our ongoing coverage of Roll Call’s 60th Anniversary. See all of our coverage at

Covering the ethics committees and influence for Roll Call was my first true “Washington” journalism job.

Although I’d physically worked in the area for a couple of years at that point, I’d never set foot on the Hill until Roll Call, and even then, I largely pored over documents and ethics rules from the bureau. (Thanks to Paul Singer for taking a chance on me!) In many ways, it still — and always will — feel like home, thanks to the truly amazing group of people I got to work with there over just two years. Full story

July 29, 2015

Norah O’Donnell: My First Article for Roll Call


This is part of a series of reflections from alumni journalists for our ongoing coverage of Roll Call’s 60th Anniversary. See all of our coverage at

By Norah O’Donnell

I’ve still never been paid for the first article I wrote for Roll Call. Not a penny.

And I don’t care. Full story

July 22, 2015

View From a Decade Ago: Reporter Reflects on Covering Pelosi-Hoyer Feud

Hoyer, Pelosi on Nov. 7, 2006, at the Democrats' election night watch party. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hoyer, Pelosi on Nov. 7, 2006, at the Democrats’ election night watch party. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This is part of a series of reflections from alumni journalists for our ongoing coverage of Roll Call’s 60th Anniversary. See all of our coverage at

Special to Roll Call

It was a hot, humid night — as if there’s any other kind during a D.C. summer — and Nancy Pelosi wasn’t happy. On her to-do list was an item that, on paper, seemed like a light lift: Get rid of the guy in whose freezer the feds had just found $90,000 in cold, hard cash. This was a particularly pressing matter for Pelosi, who had already made a vow to “drain the swamp” of Republican corruption the centerpiece of her party’s effort to win back the House in the 2006 midterms.

And yet here she was, presiding at an emergency Democratic Caucus meeting and facing a rebellion. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana wasn’t that popular or influential with his colleagues, and few doubted he was dirty. But to many Democrats, particularly Jefferson’s fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, this was a test of procedural fairness. Jefferson had not yet been charged with any crime, so who was Pelosi to strip him of his prestigious Ways and Means seat — especially when there was no obvious precedent for such a move? Full story

July 16, 2015

Nina Totenberg: Reporting for Roll Call in the 1960s

CQ Roll Call File Photo

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By Nina Totenberg

The truth is I was so young, so inexperienced in terms of Washington coverage, and so star-struck by being in the Capitol that everything back then seemed exciting. But my most acute memories are of the Roll Call office, which bore no resemblance to the current digs.

The office back then was basically a large, partially divided single room on Capitol Hill, with Sid Yudain, the publisher, sitting in one large alcove, and his sister (aka the advertising director) sharing the other part of the room with me. I was the jack-of-all trades, writing anything and everything I could get my hands on or head around. Full story

June 16, 2015

Roll Call Turns 60

Yudain, left, with Nixon, Roll Call's first subscriber. (Courtesy Lael Yudain)

Yudain, left, with Nixon, Roll Call’s first subscriber. (Courtesy Lael Yudain)

Roll Call celebrates its 60th anniversary Tuesday with the same mission dreamed up by founder Sid Yudain — serving as a hometown newspaper for the legislative community.

The front page of the first issue of Roll Call, published on June 16, 1955, featured a letter from Vice President Richard M. Nixon, whose interest spoke to the need and awaiting audience for Capitol Hill coverage from a different perspective. Full story

From Showcasing Sexy Staffers to Boozing With Members, Roll Call Has Endured

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

In honor of the 6th anniversary of Roll Call.

When you have 60 years of congressional and journalism history to sort through, where do you even begin? It can be a struggle to fully comprehend every twist and turn, to get your arms around the vastness that is six decades. So I return to Sid.

Sid Yudain, the man who founded this scrappy newspaper in 1955 as an aide to a freshman Republican from Connecticut, loved Congress. And over the years, Congress grew to love him back. Sid was Roll Call.

Full story

April 1, 2015

Having Fun With Congress

Boehner crying is not a tough slideshow to put together. But we didn't. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Boehner crying in public would not be a tough slideshow to put together. But we didn’t. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Back in 2010 during my first stint at Roll Call, I suggested creating a “tear tally” to track how often Speaker John A. Boehner needs to pull out a hankie. Not to make fun of him, of course, but to use data to remind our readers that we track Congress like no one else. It never quite came together, even though there has certainly been plenty of material.

Boehner isn’t afraid to show his softer side. He gets enough grief about it, so we decided not to give him much more — other than the tease to this post in today’s print edition of Roll Call.

Full story

February 10, 2015

From the Archives: What Bob Packwood Told Barbara Walters

Packwood talked tax reform before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Packwood talked tax reform before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Disgraced former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood’s appearance at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday raised eyebrows on the Hill, with a number of lawmakers expressing their displeasure at the Republican’s return.

We dug into the Roll Call archives and found an article published on Sept. 11, 1995, titled “Sex in the Senate: Inside Packwood’s Now-Public Diary.” Full story

January 20, 2015

Roll Call Presents: State of the Union Watch Party

This is a town full of nerds, so I don’t feel all that worried admitting I love State of the Union night.

Sure, the speech is just theatrics for the camera, and the stand-up, sit-down, grimace-chuckle-cheer thing gets a little old. And the promises of working together typically fall to the wayside before the president’s motorcade makes it back up Pennsylvania Avenue. But Washington loves its pomp and circumstance, and nights like Tuesday are one reason I left California to work here more than 11 years ago.

Full story

December 16, 2014

A Tribute to Michele Bachmann (Video)

Bachmann says farewell to Congress this month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photo)

Bachmann says farewell to Congress this month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Would it surprise you if I disclose that one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten came from Rep. Michele Bachmann?

As the Minnesota Republican bids farewell to Congress, I’m not reflecting about her bombast or her penchant for causing trouble within her party.

Full story

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