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The Lighter Side of Congress

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 29 - Incoming speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., shakes hands with outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stands beside in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, October 29, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Out with the Boehner, in with the Ryan. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With another calendar year and session of Congress wrapped up, HOH would be remiss if we didn’t take a look back at what made it all special, from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s parking skills to the richest man in Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa, dishing on where the cheapest sodas were, from Capitol Police leaving guns in the potty to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., doing 46 pushups.

Hill Happenings

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s notorious exercise band accident started off 2015, leading to a horrific eye injury and broken ribs. Reid missed the start of the Congress and when he returned, he was sporting dark shades. He later announced his retirement, and sued the exercise band maker.

Meanwhile, the Band Perry helped bring in the new year with a performance at the Capitol Visitor Center on Jan. 13. That little bit of good cheer soon gave way to the news of Illinois GOP Rep. Aaron Schock’s “Downton Abbey”-inspired office décor, which led to a rough week for him and his staff, and turned him into a punch-line at the 71st Congressional Dinner on Feb. 6, with Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and New York Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel picking fun at Schock and fellow lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Capitol Police, responding to a lawmaker’s complaint, enforced a “Scrooge-like ban” on sledding on the West Front of the Capitol. Norton and neighborhood activists got the last laugh, though, by securing a win in for the kids in the year-end spending legislation that allowed Hill sledding.

Meanwhile, in March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress that led to extensive selfies and tweeting on the floor, which members were unapologetic about despite it violating decorum rules.

Perhaps most importantly, the world found out Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has his cellphone ringtone set to “Let it Go,” Disney’s “Frozen” anthem.

Celebrities swarmed to Capitol Hill, advocating for funding arts education on April 24, sending in Sir Elton John to testify about global health programs on May 5 and, with Taylor Swift’s Nationals’ Park concert June 13, providing a venue for political fundraisers.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton made some trips to the Hill as well, including a marathon hearing on Benghazi in September. Perhaps the biggest celebrity of the year, Pope Francis, visited on Sept. 24.

C-SPAN picked up a clerk saying Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., “better get his ass here” during votes on Oct. 30; gyrocopter pilot Douglas Hughes plead guilty to his April 15 flight and landing on the Capitol on Nov. 20 and former Vice President Dick Cheney made the trek to check out his new bust. To finish up the session, senators had some bipartisan fun by exchanging secret Santa gifts.

Leadership Lust

While still speaker, John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reminded members on Feb. 26 to dress appropriately on the floor, adding “you know who you are.” Following Boehner’s resignation, news that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R- Calif., dropped out of the race to replace him couldn’t stay quiet for long thanks to Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., who tweeted it out on Oct. 9.

Boehner received a parting gift from House Republicans on Oct. 27: a new golf cart with a license plate that reads, “MR SPKR.” And, an Oct. 29 roll call vote elected Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., the new speaker. Boehner finished his tenure in much the way he ran it, with tears. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere for now. Perhaps it’s his dedication to hydration.

Presidential Hopefuls

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had a busy year in 2015, which kicked off with jury duty on Jan. 9 in Houston. He’s out of the race now, but Sen. Lindsey Graham mentioned his bachelor-status more than once this year. At a hearing on Feb. 17, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., asked him if he was “working on grandchildren” and he responded, “I guess if I did the Strom thing, it’s possible” — referring to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s late-in-life child rearing. Business mogul Donald Trump said the Capitol Dome restoration project was behind schedule on Sept. 14 and a Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., staffer accused a Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., staffer of assault on social media Sept. 18.

White House Watch

Early on in an otherwise busy year for Baltimore, President Barack Obama and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., visited Charm City’s Charmington’s Café on Jan. 15. Obama delivered his State of the Union on Jan. 21; members reacted with Roll Call’s #SOTUin3Words. Ashton B. Carter became Secretary of Defense and the infamously touchy Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stole the show on Feb. 17 when he got up close and personal with Carter’s wife.

Family Affairs

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., proudly announced while exiting the chamber on Jan. 14 that his son-in-law, Dahntay Jones, signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., gave birth in November 2014 to Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey and took 12 weeks paid maternity leave, returning to work on Feb. 24. Rep. Paul Ruiz, D-Calif., welcomed twin daughters Sky and Sage in late March, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., presided over her chief of staff’s wedding in May and there was a fire at Rep. Elijah E. Cummings’, D-Md., Baltimore home on June 2.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, got married on his 82nd birthday on June 9 and welcomed his first great-grandchild on Dec. 25. Boehner, R-Ohio, welcomed his first grandchild in August and Richard Hudson, R-N.C., welcomed his first child, Richard Lane Hudson III on Sept. 29. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., welcomed his second daughter on Nov. 2 and Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., adopted his first child in October. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., welcomed his first child, Eleanor.

Roll Call’s Year

WAMU’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” partnered with Roll Call and the Folger Library for a weeklong stint broadcasting on Capitol Hill. Roll Call hosted the 54th Annual Congressional Baseball Game on June 11 where Obama made a surprise appearance. Christina Bellantoni left Roll Call as editor-in-chief but not before competing in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball game on June 24 and Roll Call Capitol Hill Editor Jason Dick had a wedding for the ages on Nov. 12.

Let’s see what the 60-year-old Roll Call has in store for the new year.


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