Culture

The Hill has its own vocabulary, manners of socializing, and venues to blow off steam. Below are some terms and places of interest.

Vocabulary

BB – blackberry. Also called “crack berry” because staff are constantly checking them like addicts.

Budget dust – also called “pencil dust” or a “rounding error” this term is used by Appropriations staff to describe an amount of money that they do not deign to consider worth discussion — anything less than $1 million.

Call-time – block of time when either the Member or the Chief of Staff calls potential donors. It’s a task most Members and staff despise. Also called “dialing for dollars,” any interaction with donors must be done off the official boundaries of the Hill, and cannot involve official email or cell phones. Most call-time is done at call centers set up by both parties close to congressional buildings or in the townhouses close to the Hill.

Cannon - the first building designed for Representatives and staff after offices in the Capitol became too crowded. Opened in 1908, the Cannon House Office Building is named after Speaker of the House Joseph Gurney Cannon of Illinois. The building is Beaux-Arts in style and is made of marble. Members frequently give television interviews in the building’s large Rotunda.

Chief of Staff – the COS is normally the top staffer in a Member’s personal office. A COS is likely to split half their time between Hill duties and fundraising which must be done off the Hill. Also manages the budget for the office.

Communications Director – a more prestigious title than Press Secretary. Implies that the person supervises a large press staff.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) -created in 1974, CBO provides nonpartisan advice on bills and “scores” them for their impact on the budget.

Dropping a bill – to introduce a bill.

The Floor – the chamber of either the Senate or House.

Hill Rat – slang term for a Hill staffer.

Legislative Assistant (LA) – next position after an LC, the LA position involves working on legislation and providing expertise for specific policy or a federal agency.

Leg Counsel – office found in both the House and Senate where specially trained attorneys take language from staff to draft bills and amendments.

Legislative Correspondent (LC) – junior staff position whose main job is to answer constituent mail and sometimes draft legislation.

Legislative Director (LD) – oversees all legislation for an office and supervises the LCs and LAs.

Mark-up – the formal process by which a Committee considers and passes legislation, to include adding amendments to the bill.

My Boss – term used instead of saying the actual name of the Senator or Representative. Sometimes used outside the office so that people in earshot will not know which Member is being discussed. Can also mean the person who is the immediate supervisor in the office, such as the Chief of Staff. In this case, the person will clarify they are referencing the Member by saying, “The Big Boss.”

Non-designated Staff – employees who work for neither the Majority of Minority party. For instance, many staff who work on Committees are non-designated, such as IT people and secretaries. The Senate’s Joint Committee on Taxation is also considered to have non-designated staff. The number of non-designated staff has slowly declined over the last few decades.

Press Assistant – assistant to the Press Secretary.

Press Secretary – the person in charge interacting with the media for a Member or for a Committee. A more prestigious title for this position is sometimes used and is called the Communications Director.

Recess – blocks of time, during summer and the holidays for instance, when Congress is not meeting for official business. During recess, most Members go home to meet with constituents.

Russell – the first building designed for Senators and staff after offices in the Capitol became too crowded. Opened in 1909, the Russell Senate Office Building is named after Senator Richard Brevard Russell Jr. of Georgia. The building is Beaux-Arts in style and is made of marble. Because of it’s beauty it is often called “The Senator’s Building.” Senators frequently give television interviews in the large Rotunda at the west end of Russell.

Skinterns – pejorative for female interns who wear heels too high and skirts too short. More commonly found on the House side.

Staff Ass – nickname for a Staff Assistant, the entry level Hill job.

Staff Director – the top person on a Committee. BothRepublicans and Democrats have their own staff director for each committee.

Scheduler – manages a Member’s calendar and secures appointments to see the Member. Also functions as the personal assistant to the Member.

Wheels up – the moment when the Boss’s plane leaves the ground, taking him back to the home district on the weekend. At this time, some offices start to relax and Happy Hour may begin.

Whip – to whip, or whipping, means to round up supporters for a bill.

Networking

Armand’s Pizza - because it’s close to the Senate and cheap, a popular spot for Senate interns.

Bullfeathers – bar on the House side, frequented by Republicans.

Cap Lounge – the Capitol Lounge is bar on the House side, frequented by lobbyists and staff.

Capital Grille – considered a hangout for Republicans and lobbyists, Capital Grille is definitely upscale. “It’s a place to feel important and a spot most staffers should not be eating at, since they cannot afford it.” Republican Staffer

The Chef – now called American Grill, this eating spot in the basement of Senate Dirksen is usually abuzz with staff holding informal meetings with lobbyists and sources.

Cups – a coffee shop in the basement of the Russell Senate building. Popular place for informal meetings.

Johnny’s Half Shell – a seafood bar and restaurant on the Senate side that regularly hosts fundraisers, and is a gathering spot for Senate staff, lobbyists, and journalists from near by TV studios.

La Loma – a latin restaurant on the Senate side. Popular place for lunches, especially during warm weather when you can sit outside on the patio.

Lounge 201 – hidden in a basement just yards from the Hart Building, this bar is a regular place for fundraisers and has long been the place for investigative congressional staff to meet and plot.

The Monocle - a restaurant that is actually on congressional property and next to the Hart building that serves as a meeting place for staff and lobbyist. The Monocle is also the regular dinner place for several Senators. “They treat electeds like rock stars. And it showcases the best in American cuisine circa 1958.” Senate Democratic Legislative Director

Tune Inn – called the “Tune,” this low rent bar is frequented by Democratic staffers and Congressmen and was chosen by Esquire Magazine as one of the country’s top dive bars. “Definitely a Democratic bar, but the burgers are amazing. I’m willing to venture into enemy territory for some prized beef.”  Republican Press Secretary

Tortilla Coast – featuring generic Mexican food and margaritas, this House side restaurant is popular with young staff and lobbyists who hold fund raisers in the basement. “T-coast sucks.” Republican Staffer

Union Pub – popular bar for Senate staff, because it is close, cheap, and serves beer in pitchers.