Heard on the Hill

Chants of ‘We Want Cruz’ Fill DC Arena as Lobbyists Beat Lawmakers

Congressmen lose out again — in basketball, that is

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, left, passes to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who sets up for a shot. (Alex Gangitano/CQ Roll Call)

When his teammate made the steal, Sen. Ted Cruz was in position. He caught the pass. He missed the shot. 

But the Cruz fan base was loyal. A small voice from the crowd later yelled, “We want Cruz,” and the emcee took up the cry.

Lawmakers once again fell to the lobbyists in this year’s Congressional Fall Classic basketball game, which raises money for at-risk kids through the Hoops for Youth Foundation.

They missed out by just four points, and that was without Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, a standout in last year’s game. Rep. Ralph Norman, who last week made jokes about Ruth Bader Ginsburg getting groped, was also scheduled to play but didn’t show.

Cruz, McCarthy Shoot Congressional Hoops, But Lawmakers Lose to Lobbyists

It fell to Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello to lead the final charge Tuesday night at George Washington University’s Smith Center.

After dominating the first half, he didn’t come off the bench until deep into the second. Right away, he made two consecutive baskets. A staffer free throw put the lawmakers briefly in the lead, but the lobbyists roared back to bring the game to 56–53 with one minute left.

Tempers flared as the teams traded fouls. Rep. Connor Lamb — another Pennsylvanian and the only Democrat on the court — got a whistle, followed by Costello. With 10 seconds left, Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood went to the line and missed. 

There was enough time left for Costello to foul again. “I didn’t touch him!” he yelled, bouncing the ball high in the air. In the end it didn’t matter. While the lobbyists missed both shots, they brought home the win anyway, 57–53.

The members had been ahead 24-18 going into halftime. They slowly blew their lead.

“Hey Valadao, you can’t score if you don’t shoot,” Rep. Jeff Denham yelled at Rep. David Valadao from the bench.

As his fellow Golden State lawmaker prepared to take a free throw, Denham added, “All the other Californians have scored!”

Valadao made the shot.

Of all the fans in the audience, Texas Rep. Jodey Arrington’s were the loudest, as they were led by his three small children. They appeared to leave for bedtime after the first half.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also played, along with Carlos Curbelo of Florida and two lawmakers from the Michigan delegation, John Moolenaar and Mike Bishop. Ohio’s Brad Wenstrup was the team’s MVP.

Memories of tragedy hung over the night. Two years ago, Jim Lyons, a longtime Senate Finance tax counsel, collapsed during the game that staffers and lobbyists play before members take the court. He later died. Since then, a scholarship fund has been created in his name.

And when the most valuable players of the game were named, it came with a nod to Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was wounded when a gunman opened fire on another congressional sporting event last year. The Hoops for Youth Foundation honored WenstrupKenny Hulshof and Jim Martin with their 2018 Steve Scalise Heart of a Warrior awards. 

Scalise used to play in the basketball game and came out Tuesday to support the team. 

Last year, lobbyists beat the members, 49-41.

Erin Franczak contributed to this report.

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