Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Millennium Challenge Corporation Celebrates 10th Anniversary

While bipartisan efforts in Congress can seem few and far between, policymakers from across the ideological spectrum point to the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Challenge Corporation as evidence they can find common ground when addressing global development.

“It’s one of the few places, frankly, left in Washington where that spirited bipartisanship continues to exist and drive forward,” White House counselor John Podesta said at a Nov. 18 event celebrating the organization’s 10 years.

At the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, more than 400 people gathered to honor the MCC, which was created by an act of Congress in 2004. The crowd included lawmakers, diplomats, and members of President Barack Obama’s administration, the global development community and the private sector. Full story

November 23, 2014

Marion Barry, 4-Term Mayor and D.C. Councilmember, Dies at 78

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A “Thank You” card to Marion Barry sits on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building, DC’s City Hall, on Nov. 23. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former D.C. Mayor and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry died Sunday at the age of 78.

Barry’s family did not indicate the cause of his death in a statement released Sunday morning, but said Barry passed away at United Medical Center early Sunday after having previously been hospitalized at Howard University Hospital on Saturday.

“Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.” Full story

November 21, 2014

D.C. Health Care Enrollment Site Down Until Saturday Night

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DC Health Link is currently down (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers looking to enroll in the health care exchanges this weekend will have to wait until Saturday night, as the website administering enrollment is down for maintenance. The enrollment period for congressional employees began on Nov. 10 and ends on Dec. 8.

“During this outage, important maintenance work is taking place that will resolve a variety of different issues employees have been seeing,” read a message sent to Senate staffers Friday morning, which also noted the website, also known as DC Health Link, was unavailable beginning Thursday evening. A DC Health Link spokesman said the maintenance would be complete by 8 p.m. Saturday.

The spokesman said the website was unavailable due to a data update. Before individuals can renew their health care coverage, the Affordable Care Act requires the data to be refreshed to verify that the individuals are still eligible for their plans.

“The data refresh requires the on-line portal to be unavailable for a brief period of time,” the spokesman wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “The maintenance period of the on-line portal also impacts the small business marketplace customer accounts including small businesses and congressional employees.”

DC Health Link is also in the process of correcting information for employee accounts.

“Although enrollment is correct, we identified a set of employee accounts that did not reflect correct information because of multiple old applications,” wrote the spokesman. “We have already successfully resolved some accounts; today’s update is expected to correct the remaining accounts.”

For Hill staffers, the notice that the website was down may have brought on some unwelcome déjà vu. Glitches with DC Health Link during the first enrollment process last year caused headaches on Capitol Hill and resulted in an extension for the enrollment deadline.

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect last year, congressional health care has been a target for those aiming to dismantle the president’s signature legislation. In, October, the conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit challenging Congress’ small business status in enrollment. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is also in an ongoing legal battle arguing that lawmakers and Hill staffers should not be granted employer contributions.

Niels Lesniewski contribute to this report.


Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

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Capitol Christmas Tree Arrives on the Hill

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The Capitol Christmas Tree is hoisted from the truck for transportation to the West Lawn of the Capitol on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

All the way from Minnesota, the Capitol Christmas Tree arrived on Friday. Now, the Minnesota White Spruce just needs to be anchored upright, decorated head to toe and lit, finally, by Speaker John A. Boehner on Dec. 2.

This year’s tree traveled from the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota with some companions from back home — thousands of handmade ornaments from North Star State children tagged along for the journey.

According to an Architect of the Capitol blog post about the tree, the tree was selected on a two-day trip in July by AOC Superintendent of Capitol Grounds Ted Bechtol.

The lighting ceremony will take place on Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. on the West Front Lawn of the Capitol. It will be lit every night when the sun goes down until Jan. 1.


Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Announced

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Capitol Police Chasing Law Enforcement Accreditation

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Under Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine, right, the department is pursuing accredidation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As a legislative branch agency, the Capitol Police force is subject to oversight by both chambers of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Compliance and other external entities, including an independent Office of the Inspector General.

The department also holds itself to more than 350 meticulous standards set by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., better known as the CALEA. The nonprofit corporation was established in 1979, through joint efforts of major law enforcement groups such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs’ Association as part of a movement to bring more professionalism to policing.

For more than 13 years, Capitol Police have maintained CALEA accreditation, paying around $100,000 in fees. On Nov. 22, the department’s accreditation will be up for its latest review. Full story

Ron Johnson Open to Hearing on Marijuana Legalization

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., likely the next chairman of the Senate committee with oversight over Washington, D.C., said Thursday that he would like to hold a hearing on marijuana legalization.

When asked about his view of marijuana legalization in D.C., Johnson told a group of reporters, “What we can do is we can hold hearings to find out how it’s all working, to highlight the issues, highlight the problem, try and define the problems. So I think that’s what we should really do.”

Johnson, who will likely be the next chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said such a hearing would focus on how legalization in other states has unfolded. Full story

November 20, 2014

Republican National Committee Headquarters Hit With Blue Spray Paint

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise outside the RNC’s headquarters. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A vandal struck the Republican National Committee headquarters on Veterans Day, according to Capitol Police.

Around 7 a.m. on Nov. 11, a security guard spotted a young man spray painting a large blue “V” on the front door of 310 First St. SE, according to the police report. The graffiti was thwarted by the guard, who handcuffed the perpetrator and called Capitol Police.

Wilbert Henry Norton, 24, of Floyd, Va., was arrested and charged with destruction of property under $1,000, a misdemeanor. As a condition of his release, he was ordered to stay away from Capitol grounds, including all congressional office buildings.

The RNC paint job appears to be an isolated incident, though other buildings in the area have been targeted in recent months, according to sources familiar with the location.

Asked if there’s been an increase in vandalism around the Capitol grounds, the department provided statistics. To date in 2014, six incidents of graffiti have been reported to Capitol Police. That’s an uptick from five in 2013, but a decrease from 2012, when 10 graffiti incidents were reported on Capitol grounds. Some members faced vandalism in their districts that year, a backlash to passage of the health care overhaul.

In an email, Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the department, said Capitol Police “strategically deploy our assets throughout the Capitol Campus as part of our primary law enforcement mission to protect the Congress, the Capitol Complex, and the legislative process.”

Capitol Police work with the Architect of the Capitol to remove markings whenever graffiti is reported.

Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report. 

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Mandatory House Ethics Training? Some Incoming Freshmen Don’t See the Point

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Cicilline wants mandatory ethics training for House lawmakers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer, the staunchly conservative congressman-elect preparing to replace retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann, drew three takeaways from his recent training on House ethics rules.

“Pay for everything yourself, don’t take any gifts, and — if you have a question about either of those two rules — here’s the people you call,” Emmer quipped Tuesday morning, resting up in the basement of the Capitol Hill Club after a chilly photo shoot on the East Front Capitol steps with his fellow freshmen. “It’s that basic.”

Emmer and three other incoming members preparing to replace House lawmakers leaving Washington with open ethics reviews, all seemed to feel confident they were well-equipped to navigate Congress within the bounds of the 675 pages of rules governing the House, after a three-hour ethics briefing on the first day of the second week of orientation. Full story

November 19, 2014

Charlie Dent: Nice Guy Tapped for Tough Job

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent will serve as chairman of the House Ethics Committee in the next Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner announced in a statement praising the congressman’s practicality.

“Charlie Dent is the epitome of what an Ethics Committee chairman should be: he is thoughtful and well-respected on both sides of the aisle for his integrity and good judgment,” Boehner stated Tuesday, of his pick to take the gavel from K. Michael Conaway on the bipartisan panel. Conaway will move to the top spot on the House Agriculture Committee, as one of six Texas Republicans to chair full House committees in the 114th Congress.

“The American people expect the highest standards of conduct from their elected officials, and I’m confident that under Charlie’s leadership, the Ethics Committee will continue to ensure accountability and protect the public trust,” Boehner continued.

As one of a dwindling number of centrists in the chamber, the 54-year-old Dent is a leader of an informal caucus of moderate lawmakers known as the Tuesday Group. He briefly stepped into the spotlight during the October 2013 federal shutdown when he criticized conservatives for misguided tactics and said he would vote to end it. The move got him branded a “Republican In Name Only,” by Pennsylvania tea party members, but he faced no primary challenge and ran unopposed in November. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 6:15 p.m.

New Members of Congress Flip for Office Selection (Slideshow)

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

On the final day of orientation, new members of Congress, their staff and the media packed into a Rayburn committee hearing room Wednesday to find out their fate for office selection.

In alphabetical order, new members or their designees walked up to the dais, and picked a token with a number from one to 57, selecting which order they would choose their suite for the next two years.

“One thing I feel obligated to let you know is, two years ago when we were conducting the room lottery for members-elect, there was a direct correlation between the number you drew and the demonstration of something that brings luck to you,” said Superintendent of House Office Buildings William M. Weidemeyer.

And some new members certainly took that advice to heart. Full story

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