Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 20, 2014

June 30, 2014

Could Congressional Sports Fix Washington? It’s a Start

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Patrick Meehan and William Lacy Clay share a warm moment after the 53rd annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the sixth inning of the 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, Republican Vance McAllister stepped up to the plate, snagging one of Democrat Cedric L. Richmond’s pitches and launching a grounder between second and third base.

Turns out, Richmond was giving McAllister exactly what he wanted. The two members of the Louisiana House delegation were on rival teams that night and are from warring parties, but one did the other the tiniest favor at Nationals Park on June 25.

The lawmakers quipped about the home-state camaraderie at the after-party, as McAllister’s kids eyed the snack bar and Richmond’s colleagues noted that even though the Democrats prevailed, his pitching suffered this year because he has a new baby at home. Even the coaches figured out the New Orleans-area congressman had helped his politically beleaguered pal from northern Louisiana belt a single, not that it really mattered.

They called each other “good friends.” And it actually sounded like they meant it.

When the game was called due to an impending lightning storm at the end of the sixth, I took the field to deliver the coveted Roll Call trophy to the Democratic victors.

As I stepped onto the grass, freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy of Florida asked me for a favor of his own — could I please snap a shot of him with Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta and text it to him later? The two grinned, and you could tell they had bonded on the field this year, setting party labels aside.

Full story

June 16, 2014

Softball, Sunshine and Sisters: Why I Play

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Bellantoni greets fellow Bad News Babe Abby Livingston at the 2013 game. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

About 75 minutes into the morning, I took a softball to my left shin.

The purple welt that formed soon after served as a nice distraction from the bruise about 2 inches above it, the result of a stray toss at a scrimmage last weekend.

It was my third consecutive day with less than five hours of sleep, after an intense and unpredictable week in the political news business. I’d started out on the field at 7 a.m., groggy and grouchy, mentally ticking off everything on the to-do list and preparing for a television hit in a few hours.

My leg hurt, but I was pleased I’d been a swift backup for the other outfielder, and that I’d gotten the ball into the shortstop’s glove.

As I walked into CNN later, someone remarked, “You sure look happy for getting up at 5:30 a.m.”

And this is why I play.

I have several goals for Wednesday’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which pits lady journalists against female members of Congress.

Full story

June 11, 2014

Mame Reiley: Loyal to the End, Celebrated With Champagne

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — “Her passion was contagious and energizing.”

That’s how Mame Reiley was memorialized Tuesday at her hometown church in Mount Vernon, by friends and loved ones who each said she inspired them to keep up the political fight to make the world better.

The Virginia Democrats most closely associated with the longtime campaign strategist, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. James P. Moran, sat in the third row in tribute, but they were hardly the only lawmakers cramming the pews of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. It was perhaps fitting that the service boasted at least three of the men vying to replace Moran in a Democratic primary being held the very day of her funeral.

The official license plates in the overflowing parking lot foreshadowed the crowd of city council members, former congressmen and state representatives in attendance — including former Republican state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, married to ex-Rep. Tom Davis , as well as former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

McDonnell, under indictment on federal corruption charges, joined others in receiving communion at the Mass. He told me he is going through “hell,” but wanted to celebrate the woman he’d known most of his life, having grown up on the same street as the Reiley family.

The politicians were but one testament to Mame being what so many dubbed, simply, “a force of nature.”

I was there because of everyone else. I’d heard stories about Mame from my friends in Virginia politics long before I had the pleasure of meeting her or hearing her hearty laugh.

And there they were, sprinkled among the elected officials — the state government workers, congressional aides and political staffers whose lives Mame touched in ways she may never have even realized.

Full story

May 20, 2014

I Went to Rand Paul’s Liberty School, and All I Got Was a Free Cup of Coffee

Screen Shot 2014 05 11 at 8.52.03 AM 398x445 I Went to Rand Paul’s Liberty School, and All I Got Was a Free Cup of Coffee

The view from the Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership training in on a recent Saturday — before I got the boot. (Christina Bellantoni/CQ Roll Call)

“You Owe It to Yourself to Learn How to Win,” Sen. Rand Paul told me in an email on Tax Day.

The message came with an invitation to attend a one-day political leadership school, led by an instructor with “years of experience running and winning campaigns and legislative projects in multiple state legislatures.” The course would teach how to pressure lawmakers and how to “work effectively” in the Capitol by getting sponsors for legislation.

I am fascinated by both the senator’s political ambition and his seemingly inherited ability to excite young people. And anyone who has listened to me speculate about the 2016 presidential campaign knows I believe the Kentucky Republican will appeal especially to Iowa caucus-goers, in addition to the voters up north who proudly “Live Free or Die.”

Critical to that happening is a grass-roots organization, a network of believers who can, as Paul put it in the email, “advance the cause of liberty.” Could the people attending this May 10 training in tiny Arbutus, Md., be activated to pound the pavement for Paul? What kind of person would devote an entire Saturday to the Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership?

The answer, it turns out, isn’t much different than other political events.

Full story

April 28, 2014

A New Day: 6 Questions With CQ’s David Ellis

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A few days ago, Vice President of News David Ellis gathered every person in our newsroom.

This is my second stint at Roll Call —> CQ Roll Call —> The Economist Group, but in all the years I’ve been affiliated with this company, I had never actually seen all of our journalists gathered in one place. It was exciting.

The purpose was explaining a series of changes that are going to help our entire business stay competitive. Because CQ clients are paying customers, and most people read Roll Call online for free, our models for making money are quite different. The changes on that side of our newsroom just up the street from the Capitol don’t really affect Roll Call, but our fates are intertwined, and everyone within the organization benefits from the brains supplying CQ customers with the sharpest policy news in the industry.

David, now six weeks on the job, took the helm of this organization after many years at Bloomberg. He had already mapped out his initial plans to me over corncakes and catfish one afternoon, but seeing them in real time helped me understand the improvements.

Full story

April 8, 2014

Hey, Congress: This Might Be Why They Hate You

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A protester during the partial government shutdown in fall 2013. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The median American household income was $51,371 in 2012. That’s $122,000 and change less than a rank-and-file member of Congress.

Full story

March 7, 2014

Roll Call Round Table: After Cummings-Issa Dust-Up, a Look Back at Nasty House Fights (Video)

roundtable 593x445 Roll Call Round Table: After Cummings Issa Dust Up, a Look Back at Nasty House Fights (Video)

(CQ Roll Call Photo)

So, how nasty was the brouhaha between Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, anyway? And how did the resulting floor fight over a resolution to rap Issa on the knuckles compare to other partisan stunts?

These are questions that came up Thursday morning in our editorial meeting as Congressional Black Caucus members put forth the measure, and once you got us going, the stories started flying. Bill Thomas, crying! Nancy Pelosi turning out the lights and locking the House chamber! The days when legislative spats were settled with fisticuffs! Sure, partisan rancor these days is bad, but things have definitely been worse. (This is something I recently was asked about before giving a speech in Massachusetts.) Full story

February 4, 2014

Why We Changed Our Labrador Story

I hate corrections.

Surely no intelligent journalist would disagree with that sentiment.

And in the case of this particular correction, I really hate having to do them when it’s not something I reported on myself.

In the spirit of transparency I promised readers in my debut “Newsroom Confidential” column last week, I want to explain why this story, first published at 5:59 p.m. Tuesday, now includes a correction and a partial transcript of the interview.

What transpired today happens in newsrooms all the time. Full story

January 28, 2014

Your Neighborhood Newspaper

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Sid Yudain.

It’s only natural the newly installed leader of the publication he founded in 1955 would take some time reflecting on the vision he had for it.

But this particular line of thought is about more than understanding Yudain, who died at age 90 last fall, and his legacy. It’s about recognizing what this newspaper represents to Capitol Hill.

“Over the years I noticed that the national and local newspapers paid little attention to the people in Congress or the community. … As time went on, I thought that maybe we could use a newspaper, just devote it to the Congress,” Yudain told us in 2011. Full story

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