Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 16, 2014

September 16, 2014

Critics Reject Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial Compromise, Optimistic About Change

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Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, wants a simpler design. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

After 15 years of planning a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the design might move forward without architect Frank Gehry’s name attached to it.

In a Wednesday meeting blocks from Capitol Hill, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission will be presented with two plans for the four-acre site in Southwest Washington slated to become a memorial to the 34th president. There is no guarantee any official action will be taken, but the Eisenhower family, members of Congress and other stakeholders indicate the most recent compromise offered by the Gehry team is not the way forward.

That version includes the 80-foot columns that a member of the National Capital Planning Commission two weeks ago described as reminiscent of the “latter scenes of ‘Planet of the Apes,’” and a stainless steel tapestry featuring scenes from Ike’s pastoral Kansan roots. An alternate version removes the tapestry and columns, and Gehry has indicated that would not be associated with his name. Full story

Navy Yard Memorial Event Marks Anniversary of Tragedy

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U.S. Navy Captain Michael Graham calls to let people know he is OK after he escaped building 197 following the Sept. 16, 2013, Navy Yard shooting. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the one-year anniversary of the tragic Navy Yard shooting in Southeast Washington, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, is inviting the Capitol Hill community and others to an evening ceremony honoring victims and survivors.

Among the 12 people gunned down by Aaron Alexis were three constituents from the Maryland Democrat’s district. All will be honored, along with the first responders and law enforcement involved in the response, during the 6 p.m. public ceremony at Canal Park, 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, a green space near the Navy Yard gates.

“With so many Fifth District residents who serve in military and civilian roles at the Navy Yard — or know someone who does — many of us continue to keep our thoughts and prayers with the victims, survivors, and families of all of those affected,” Hoyer said in a statement.

In the immediate wake of the shooting, the congressman said he expected the event to renew discussion of gun control in Congress but was skeptical any action would be taken.

Twelve months later, lawmakers with oversight responsibilities in the Senate and House have probed into the security clearance background screening process that failed to identify Alexis as a potential threat. An independent panel appointed by the Department of Defense and a White House report have also delved into security clearance procedures.

President Barack Obama memorialized the rampage in a Tuesday statement and said the nation has continued to “improve security at our country’s bases and installations to protect our military and civilian personnel who help keep us safe.”

“One year ago, 12 Americans went to work to protect and strengthen the country they loved,” Obama stated. “Today, we must do the same — rejecting atrocities like these as the new normal and renewing our call for common-sense reforms that respect our traditions while reducing the gun violence that shatters too many American families every day.”

Navy Yard employees, some of the Navy’s top brass and Mayor Vincent Gray will also be in attendance for the Tuesday evening ceremony, organized by the group Near Southeast Community Partners.

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5 Vacancies on Next Year’s 50 Richest List

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Rockefeller is the wealthiest lawmaker who is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There are at least five lawmakers topping Roll Call’s 50 Richest Members of Congress list for the final time. They are the wealthiest retirees who also happen to be on our Casualty List.

Of course, any number of lawmakers on the 50 Richest list facing tough re-election campaigns might not make it back for the 114th Congress.

This year’s top 50 had a minimum net worth of $7.47 million, and it’s unclear whether any of the congressional hopefuls on the ballot this fall have enough wealth to make it on the list.

For now, here are the five spots definitely opening up once the new Congress is sworn in.

The three Republicans and two Democrats are listed in the order they appear on the 50 Richest list. 50RichestLogo 240x240 5 Vacancies on Next Years 50 Richest List

4. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Rockefeller is the wealthiest retiring member, with a minimum net worth of more than $108 million.

Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is vying for Rockefeller’s seat and she is the favorite in the race, which is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. But she won’t be taking Rockefeller’s spot on the 50 Richest list. Although Capito and her husband have a large number of investments, her minimum net worth is roughly $448,000, according to the full Roll Call tally that will be published later this year.

Full story

September 15, 2014

House Ethics Committee Probing Paul Broun

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Paul Broun, the Georgia Republican who lost a Senate primary in May, is being investigated for alleged ethics violations.

The House Ethics Committee revealed Monday that it is reviewing the alleged misconduct, without disclosing the reason for the probe. Next steps for the case involving the departing, three-term congressman will be announced on or before Oct. 29.

“The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” the statement reads. Full story

D.C. Statehood Hearing Explores Other Options

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Carper, left, chaired Monday’s hearing on D.C. statehood options. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Washington, D.C. residents crowded into a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Monday to witness the first hearing on D.C. statehood in two decades, though enacting statehood in the 113th Congress is not likely anytime soon.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, facilitated the hearing, fulfilling a promise that the Senate would consider D.C. statehood in the fall.

But at the end of the hearing, Carper searched for viable solutions other than statehood, asking the second round of panelists, “What should we be able to agree to?” Full story

Capitol Hill Employees Concerned About July 10 Asbestos Exposure

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Asbestos was also a concern in 2007, as shown by Scott Smith, U.S. Capitol Power Plant worker, during a House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on “Capitol Power Plant Utility Tunnels.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The asbestos emergency that temporarily closed the House side of the Capitol was a scary ordeal for Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police employees working the overnight shift.

Union officials representing workers at both agencies told CQ Roll Call they are concerned about potential exposure to the human carcinogen, which can cause chronic lung disease as well as cancer. The Office of Compliance, an agency created by Congress to ensure safety in the legislative branch workplace, has been asked to inspect the incident for an alleged violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Asbestos fibers and other debris were released into the air around 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m., when AOC contractors removing insulation containing asbestos from pipes and valves on the Capitol’s fourth floor had an accident above the East Grand Staircase. Most of Capitol Hill learned about the incident hours later, when doors to the House side of the Capitol were closed as engineers and certified industrial hygienists evaluated the scene. Full story

Beth Plemmons, the Capitol Visitor Center’s Guide to Southern Hospitality

plemmons001 081914 440x297 Beth Plemmons, the Capitol Visitor Centers Guide to Southern Hospitality

Plemmons is CEO for Visitor Services at the Capitol Visitor Center. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

North Carolina native Beth Plemmons, CEO of visitor services at the Capitol Visitor Center, is a pro at Southern hospitality.

She spent 17 years working in reservations and ticketing positions at the grandiose 19th century Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., then transitioned to guest services at Virginia’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The Virginia Tech alumna, who studied hotel, restaurant and institutional management, joined the leadership team of the CVC just a few months before the 580,000-foot complex’s Dec. 2, 2008, grand opening.

Touring the CVC with CQ Roll Call this August, Plemmons showed off her favorite item in the Exhibition Hall collection: a marble gavel and wooden triangle that Mount Vernon resident George Washington used to lay the Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793. She stopped just short of calling the Capitol grounds an estate at one point, explaining, “This is the first time I’ve ever not worked as part of an estate.”

Plemmons accepted her first federal government post “on the heels of some controversy,” she said during a wide-ranging interview about her six-year tenure. She took a job as director of visitor services after years of negative press about construction delays and the $621-million structure’s ever-increasing price tag. While such issues are in the rearview mirror, other contentious ones have bubbled up in the intervening years, particularly surrounding the relationship between managers and the front-line employees at the CVC — its tour guides.  Full story

September 12, 2014

CBO Announces YouTube Channel

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Elemndorf announced the YouTube channel in a blog post. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Can’t get enough of budget hearings? The Congressional Budget Office has you covered.

The CBO announced Friday that it is launching its own YouTube channel, which will showcase videos of congressional testimonies, media briefings and more.

“We consider the transparency and accessibility of our work to be basic values of the agency,” CBO Director Doug Elmendorf wrote in a blog post announcing the channel.

As of 4:30 p.m., the YouTube channel had 30 subscribers and had posted 15 videos posted, which all are of Elmendorf testifying to Congress about the budget outlook.

The YouTube channel is not the only social media platform for the CBO. The budget organization also has a Twitter account that lists more than 5,000 followers. The CBO also has a SlideShare account, which showcases documents regarding forecasts and press briefings, with more than 13,600 followers.

 

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Cynics Be Damned: Krepp Endorses Norton … on Statehood Efforts

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Krepp is backing Norton on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

Ruthless campaigner Tim Krepp emailed supporters on Friday afternoon to say he wholeheartedly supports Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and they should, too. Krepp hopes to defeat the congresswoman, who is running for her 13th term representing the District, in the November election, but he wants everyone to rally behind her on Monday. Norton will testify to a Senate panel on a cause near and dear to most Washingtonians: D.C. statehood.

“Heck, I’ll even link to her website,” the tour guide, author and former naval intelligence officer wrote in his email.

Krepp also gave considerable praise to citizen activist Josh Burch, and his group, Neighbors United for DC Statehood.

Burch mobilized much of the support on Capitol Hill, pestering staffers for meetings, and status updates on the hearing promised in June 2013 by  the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del. The Brookland resident, who squeezes in time for lobbying around his full-time job for the D.C. government, has not been invited to testify.

Krepp is counting on Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to make a solid case for why a 51st star should be added to the flag. Scholars on both sides of the issue will also be weighing in. An expanded witness list released Friday by the committee includes shadow Sens. Michael D. Brown and Paul Strauss, two men who effectively serve as pro bono statehood lobbyists to the Senate.

The “New Columbia Admission Act” would give D.C. voting representation in both chambers.

During a Friday appearance with WAMU’s Kojo Nmandi, Burch acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled House, but said the hearing would be key to getting members of Congress “on the record” about their positions.

“We need to know who are friends are publicly, and we need to know who our detractors are publicly,” Burch said, “because right now, without a vote on anything, everyone can just sort of hide behind the, ‘Oh, my boss hasn’t made a decision on this legislation.’ We need to know where public officials stand on this.”

Activists hope to pack the Dirksen committee room with statehood supporters. They encourage attendees to wear red to support the cause.

Krepp is dismissing cynicism, claiming it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to assume statehood will never happen.

“If we declare victory after Monday’s hearing and go home, we’re going to be right back here in 2034 celebrating the first hearing in twenty years all over again,” he wrote. “We need to keep this momentum going and not let it drift away like we’ve done before. The key is sustained effort and civic involvement.”

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September 11, 2014

Staffers, Diplomats Call for Capitol Hill to Act on Ebola Crisis

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Omar Chinmoun of the Cameroon Embassy attends an event at the Senate Swamp where moments of silence were observed in remembrance of 9/11 and victims of Ebola in Africa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Hill observed a campus-wide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. Thursday to honor those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Six hours later, a group of 25 that included diplomats from Liberia, Cameroon and staffers from the Congressional African Staff Association gathered on the East Front to bow their heads for two moments of silence. One was observed for the victims of the attacks 13 years ago; the second was for victims of the Ebola epidemic.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black and Bishop Darlingston Johnson, chairman of the African Immigrant Caucus, led the group in prayer for healing, intervention and a strengthened global response. Black asked for wisdom for the health care experts “who seek to turn tragedy into triumph,” and relief for the more than 4,200 people that the World Health Organization estimates have been infected in the epidemic.

“I’m originally from Liberia, so it touches me very personally,” Johnson told CQ Roll Call. The church he pastors there has lost 13 people, two pastors and a pastor’s wife to the disease. “It’s very important to us that whatever resources are available be mobilized to fight this thing quickly.”

Omar Arouna, Benin’s ambassador to the United States, said his small West African nation is especially worried about the crisis in neighboring Nigeria. Benin is a “transitive country,” he explained in an interview, so it is important the international response is focused on stopping the spread of the disease.

Despite the heat of the day, many participants slipped on white T-shirts over their business suits that were passed out by organizers from Believe in Africa in hopes of drawing attention to the cause.

“There has got to be a unified response to this challenge that knows no boundaries and is moving so quickly,” said Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations for Amnesty International.

Congress has begun to take action.

A panel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on combating the threat on Aug. 7.

On Sept. 16, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hear from Kent Brantly, the doctor who contracted Ebola while doing missionary work in Liberia, along with officials from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention and the National Institutes of Health during a joint hearing.

In the continuing resolution introduced on Tuesday, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., included $88 million that was requested by the White House to bring drugs and personnel into West African countries.

“We’re hoping that whatever we do here can help push the process forward a little more quickly,” Johnson said, “move from just talking about it to some action.”

 

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By Hannah Hess Posted at 4:45 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

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