There are a lot of cranky people in the Capitol after a three-hour break between a late vote series and an early morning. But, the Scalise Squad hopes to give you a laugh before you get going.
GOP House Whip Steve Scalise’s floor team frequently slips in a joke into the whip updates they send out.
“I think everybody does a serious job up here on the Hill but it’s good to sometimes be able to have a quick laugh to start out the day,” floor assistant Ben Napier said.
Chris Hodgson, deputy floor director, added, “Being here late at night, it’s always fun to maybe put something in the bottom of an email and see who responds at 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Former team member Ben Howard set the bar for future floor assistants to try and out-joke him, floor director Matt Bravo recalled.
“He put the ‘Call Me Maybe’ music video in [the email] and everyone loved it. It was like, ‘Who’s here voting late tonight? I don’t know, call me maybe?’” Bravo said. “He put the link in there and it just blew up.”
Now that Napier sends the emails, he runs joke ideas by the team.
“He’ll throw them out in the morning and we all chime in if we like it or not or want to make an addition,” Bravo said.
“If it’s a joke about Notre Dame, I can’t tell him because then he’ll veto it,” Napier said about Bravo, a big Fighting Irish fan. He learned that after a Notre Dame loss.
“There’s a slight delay when you press send and so we were getting ready to jump into a staff meeting. So I hit send, jumped into the meeting and I watched him read the email. … His face was pretty funny,” Napier said.
The biggest points of contention come from TV shows.
“If you give any kind of an update after an episode of ‘The Bachelor’ and people who have DVR-ed it [or] haven’t watched it yet, people get very upset about the spoiler,” Hodgson said. “‘The Bachelor’ is one, ‘Game of Thrones’ is another … people get pretty fired up about.”
Being clever on little sleep is tough, they say.
“Leaving late is tough … especially those days when you have to be up and right back in the next morning to get that schedule out, which has to go out,” Hodgson said.
Napier, 26, sends out the whip floor updates that lay out the day and keeps everyone in the loop as legislation goes to the floor. He has been with Scalise’s office for eight months.
Hodgson, 28, keeps legislative directors in personal offices updated on policy and what’s coming. He’s been with the office since Scalise became whip two and a half years ago and was previously a floor assistant.
Bravo, 32, also started when Scalise became whip. He came from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and before that, worked for Eric Cantor’s office.
As floor plans change, it can get stressful.
“A lot of times, you only have two to four minutes to type up an email and hit send. And they go out to thousands of people,” Napier said.
Bravo said the team prides itself on responding quickly to questions.
“Even if it’s just, ‘Hey, we’ll get the answer for you.’ That’s what our job is — provide information, educate members on what’s going on,” he said.