Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

April 8, 2014

Hey, Congress: This Might Be Why They Hate You

Protest 19 093013 600x399 Hey, Congress: This Might Be Why They Hate You

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.

A lot of ink already has been spilled criticizing Rep. James P. Moran’s insensitive comments to CQ Roll Call’s Hannah Hess last week about members of Congress being “underpaid.” To be fair, Washington, D.C., is not a cheap place to live, and salaries are higher here than the national average. Moran’s district in the D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia had a 2012 median income of $88,233.

But I’ll remind the Virginia Democrat, who fretted pay has “been frozen for three years,” that regular raises and adjustments for cost-of-living are few and far between for the American people. Things are more expensive and wages are flat.

Is Moran an easy target? Absolutely. And he’s not alone.

Outside of the words he spoke, it would be difficult to paint Moran as an elitist snob. He’s among the poorest members. He was raised in a working-class Massachusetts family, commutes to work in a car, not an airplane, and he’s seen his share of hard times. As one of Congress’ more liberal members, Moran has advocated for policies that would boost the poor, increase the minimum wage and invest in programs that would aid low-income communities.

But when you earn six figures, plus more than the national median income above that, you are not underpaid. Period. This is one reason the American people view you as completely out of touch.

A voter might wonder when hearing something like that — from Moran, or from Republican Reps. Michael McCaul or Renee Ellmers — how members of Congress could possibly understand the average American’s life and daily struggle to make ends meet.

By just about any measure, a member’s job is not difficult. Getting there in a hard-fought campaign might have been a challenge, but the work isn’t.

There is no physical labor involved. You can rely on a professional corps of staffers. Your retirement fund is not only secure, it’s guaranteed for life. You work in a beautiful, air-conditioned building in nice offices in a city where there are people sleeping on the streets.

I’ve given some speeches lately about politics in Washington, and I usually include a punchline that Congress’ record-low approval ratings have helped people working as similarly unpopular journalists and stock brokers breathe a sigh of relief.

I appreciate the material, but c’mon.

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.)

During the meeting, Steven T. Dennis went on in detail about Pelosi’s refusal to let Republicans talk about drilling, and how the GOP staged a big show of being shut out of the chamber.

As I attempted to get things back on track to plan out the day’s newspaper, I realized we had a lot of institutional knowledge in the room, and that it was a pretty fun (by journalism nerd standards) discussion. I told everyone we should take the conversation public.

So we did — Steven, Jason Dick, David Hawkings and I chatted about the topic in our Roll Call studio. And now we bring it to you. Enjoy our first ever Roll Call round table, and let us know what you think.

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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