This year, doing the business of the People’s House was, at best, a struggle. It’s well-known that 2013 was, legislatively, the least productive session in congressional history. Leaders strained to get to 218 — a majority in the 435-seat House (in case you had no idea where the blog name came from). And there were some pretty notable news stories as a result of all this congressional dysfunction.
But as painful as the year was for members, covering the House was a pleasure, one which we here at 218 only had the honor of doing for about half the year.
In that short time, 218 — or “Goppers,” as we were formerly known, which rhymes with “Whoppers,” for all you still wondering about that — had more than a few favorite stories.
Among the labors of love, there was a piece about the 10 Republicans who could one day be speaker, a story on an internal August playbook that went out to House Republicans telling them to profess how they were fighting Washington, and a piece (in response to his “calves the size of cantaloupes” comment) asking the question: How do you solve a problem like Steve King?
We also had a few favorite profiles this year: Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., on the art of whipping; Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who told us everything Republicans do in the House should be aimed at taking back the Senate; American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, who told us about his visit with the Dalai Lama and his plan to lead the “new right”; and the enigmatic Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., who spoke from the heart about, among other things, his own grandfather’s suicide.
But one of the more interesting stories of the year was from the very beginning of January, back before there was a Roll Call House blog, when Speaker John A. Boehner was almost unseated by a conservative revolt.
A few weeks later, Roll Call went to Williamsburg, Va., to report from the annual House GOP retreat, where members engaged in some serious self-reflection. One veteran lawmaker called it “the most important retreat I’ve been to in my 28 years in Congress.”
By March, Roll Call noticed that a new power player was beginning to emerge in the House Republican Conference: Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Once a foe of Boehner’s, Cole would, over the next several months, cement himself as an unofficial spokesman for the speaker, fighting against what he saw as the recklessness of hard-line conservatives and “political immaturity.”
This was about the time Roll Call started its blog Goppers, which would later become 218. The blog began with a two-part interview with Boehner (Part I, where he beats back a question about retirement by saying, “I’m far from done,” and Part II, where he says “the sequester is here to stay” unless there’s a deal leading to a balanced budget).