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November 1, 2014

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October 16, 2014

The Softer Side of Don Young: A Counterpoint

cao young 16 030210 445x301 The Softer Side of Don Young: A Counterpoint

Young shows off his softer side while working with Cao in 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Adjectives such as “kind,” “caring,” “fatherly” and “honest” wouldn’t prompt most people to conjure up an image of Rep. Don Young.

Indeed, anyone familiar with Capitol Hill lore connects the Alaska Republican with tales of bad behavior — pulling a knife on a colleague, tracking asbestos through the halls of Congress and allegedly violating House rules for 12 years.

But Young has a softer side, according to a former colleague, two ex-aides and even a one-time political adversary who talked with CQ Roll Call as we profiled the ornery congressman.

Ex-Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, a Louisiana Republican ousted after just one term in Congress, spent nearly every vote series seated beside Young on the chamber floor. “I found him to be a very warm-hearted individual, a very straightforward individual and an outspoken individual,” Cao said about Young.

Cao said he never heard one complaint “about Young from any of his colleagues” — except, he conceded, for the story “about how he maybe pulled a knife, something along those lines.”

Full story

September 17, 2014

Parties’ Shared Benghazi Goals: Win the Hearings, Control the Narrative

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On the eve of a new round of hearings, Cummings made it clear Democrats intend to defend the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Trey Gowdy and Elijah E. Cummings say they don’t want the Select Committee on Benghazi to be driven by partisanship, and both have made overtures over the past four months to prove they mean it.

But no matter how many times the South Carolina Republican and Maryland Democrat huddle in the Speaker’s Lobby and pledge to treat the committee’s mission with dignity, the chairman and ranking member probably won’t be able to drown out the partisan voices on sidelines just 48 days from the midterm elections.

On the eve of the committee’s first public hearing, set for Wednesday morning, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, on Capitol Hill and off, were already drawing battle lines. Full story

August 28, 2014

Army Veteran Shane Scherer Joins Roskam’s Staff as Constituent Advocate | Hill Climber

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Roskam has hired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane Scherer is joining his district office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As President Barack Obama addressed the American Legion Wednesday and stressed the importance of regaining veterans’ trust after the Veterans Affairs health care crisis, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane Scherer was in the middle of his second week as a congressional staffer.

Scherer recently began his new role as veterans constituent advocate for Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., the former chief deputy whip. Scherer will be based in Roskam’s district office in Illinois.

“I wanted to continue doing my duty for the public, so this is an opportunity to jump back in that role in a different setting,” Scherer told CQ Roll Call in a Wednesday phone interview.

The retired sergeant is part of the Wounded Warrior Program, which awards two-year fellowships in House offices to disabled veterans who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

According to Patricia Orsini, the director of the Wounded Warrior Program, a total of 135 veterans have participated in the program since it began in 2008. There are currently 40 Wounded Warrior fellows in the House.

“We just target disabled veterans who want to get hired and have an opportunity to really make a difference,” Orsini said Wednesday. She added that many fellows go on to become permanent staffers in Congress or at the VA. “It really opens doors, especially for those who want to stay in the advocacy field,” she said.

Scherer said that he was enjoying his experience working for Roskam so far, particularly “the opportunity to help people once again.”

Scherer was deployed in Afghanistan from July 2008 to May 2009. Eleven days before he was scheduled to return home, Scherer suffered life-threatening injuries during an attack on his base. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and spent months recovering and re-learning basic functions, such as walking and talking. Today he does not have any feeling in his left foot and hand.

“His remarkable recovery is a testament to his strength, resilience, and unparalleled determination to help the country he nearly lost his life defending,” Roskman said in a statement announcing Scherer’s hire.

According to Roskam, Scherer “will be responsible for helping our local veterans receive the care and attention they deserve.”

Scherer said his personal experience receiving care at a VA hospital will be beneficial in his new role, which will involve helping fellow veterans navigate the VA and other federal agencies.

“I understand the ins and outs in what it’s like to be involved in all levels of care in the VA,” said Scherer. “I relate and can connect on a very personal level, having the same experience.”

August 22, 2014

Gowdy Hires Top Lawyer for Benghazi Committee

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Gowdy’s Benghazi select committee will hold its first hearing next month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After an extended period of quiet, the special committee for investigating the attacks in Benghazi may be readying for action.

Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. announced Friday he has hired a retired three-star general to lead the panel’s legal team.

Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman was the senior military lawyer for the Army for four years as judge advocate general at the Pentagon, Gowdy’s office said. He retired last November after 33 years on active duty.

Full story

August 19, 2014

Veteran Staffer to Head Port of Pittsburgh Commission | Hill Climber

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Martinko will become the executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s deputy staff director is leaving Congress to become executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission.

Stephen Martinko was the lead House negotiator for the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act, one of the few pieces of legislation enacted by Congress this year.

“His ability to understand and then explain complex policies to members of Congress, staffers, and stakeholders on both sides of the aisle has helped transform the way the Committee does business,” committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said of the deputy staff director in a press release.

trans Veteran Staffer to Head Port of Pittsburgh Commission | Hill Climber Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 12:25 p.m.
Hill Climber, Staff

August 18, 2014

Cantor Communications Director Lands at Purple

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Cooper, left, is joining a bipartisan firm. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Eric Cantor communications director Rory Cooper has joined Purple Strategies, moving from Capitol Hill following his boss’ shocking loss to work as managing director for the Alexandria-based public relations shop.

Cooper, who starts Monday, will help design, sell and implement strategic campaigns for the bipartisan firm’s clients. “From the first minute I ever walked in the door at Purple, I knew this was going to be a team that I wanted to work with every day,” Cooper told CQ Roll Call.

Purple co-founder Steve McMahon lauded his new hire as “talented, tough and tenacious.”

Cooper, 37, worked for Cantor two years, coming to the Hill after four years at the Heritage Foundation and seven years in the George W. Bush administration. He padded his résumé in a number of roles: policy adviser at the Department of Energy, government affairs director at NASA and, at the White House, as a member of the team that helped create the Department of Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Full story

July 30, 2014

Majority Leader-Elect McCarthy Inherits Top Cantor Aides

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Four Eric Cantor aides will keep their jobs but have a new boss by the end of the week. Neil Bradley, Rob Borden, Robert Story Karem and Roger Mahan will work for incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

Bradley will remain deputy chief of staff, a position he also held for two years when Cantor was the minority whip and when Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was House majority whip.

Full story

Majority Whip-Elect Steve Scalise Staffs Up

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Scalise staffers took stock of his leadership bid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The new House GOP leadership team is staffing up.

On Tuesday evening, just days before he officially assumes the rank of No. 3 House Republican with Kevin McCarthy poised to take on the post of No. 2, Majority Whip-Elect Steve Scalise, R-La., released the names of the aides who will either join his office or follow him into his new suite in the Capitol proper.

Many of the men and women currently on his payroll — either in his personal office or at the Republican Study Committee where he served as chairman — will stay on board, assuming equivalent titles or taking on new ones. Full story

July 15, 2014

Staffers Purged at Homeland Security Committee

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There are concerns the staff firings could hurt McCaul’s tenure at the Homeland Security Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A spate of sudden firings at the House Homeland Security Committee last month adds to a pattern of extensive turnover that has left members and staffers questioning the panel’s leadership and its commitment to border security and counterterrorism policy.

A new staff director for Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas cleaned house at the committee, dismissing five top policy staffers on June 20, including his top advisers on border security and counterterrorism, both of whom McCaul hired less than two years ago. There have been at least five other staff departures since McCaul became chairman last year.

The brain drain comes a few months after McCaul hired Brendan Shields to reorganize the panel as staff director — and leaves the full committee without some of its most experienced policy aides against the backdrop of a crisis of Central American children illegally crossing the Southern border and instability in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

“I kind of wonder if Brendan Shields has turned on a television in the last six months or picked up a New York Times,” said a former government official, who was not among the fired staffers but knows people involved with the committee. “Is he not paying attention to what’s going on in Syria? In Libya? … Has he turned on CNN and seen the holding pens with thousands of children coming across the border?”

McCaul and his spokesman declined to comment, and an email sent to Shields on July 11 garnered an automatic reply noting he was out of the country, but expected to return Monday. Shields was in Brazil during the FIFA World Cup, according to sources.

Interviews with a dozen current and former staffers and members close to the committee revealed that members have been told that the reorganization is meant to empower the subcommittees and reduce redundancies and staff overlap to save money. Yet the firings are only one part of what has been a wider staff exodus from the committee over the last year.

Full story

June 26, 2014

Looking for Work: Top Cantor Aides on the Market

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Cooper, left, and Heye, seen here during the State of the Union, are in Cantor’s communications shop. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s leadership aides are on the job market after his stunning primary defeat. They also happen to be some of the sharpest people on Capitol Hill.

Among Cantor’s top staffers are:

Full story

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