Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014

Steve Stockman Takes Aim at D.C. Traffic Cams

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Stockman, right, wants gun ranges and no traffic cams in D.C. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Outgoing Rep. Steve Stockman is trying to leave his mark on Washington residents before he heads back to Texas by using his seat in Congress to intervene in local policy on guns and traffic.

With a handful of weeks left in his term, the Republican introduced bills to mandate a public firearm range in the District of Columbia and prohibit the city from using automated speed and traffic cameras.

Stockman’s gun legislation comes about a month after the city enacted a system to begin issuing concealed carry permits, in response to a federal judge’s ruling. The July 26 order briefly wiped D.C.’s ban on handguns from the books, something Republicans on Capitol Hill tried to do over the summer with an appropriations rider. The D.C. Council is putting the finishing touches on a more permanent solution that would maintain strict gun control standards.

Stockman’s traffic camera proposal is similar to that by another short-timer in Congress: Michigan Republican Kerry Bentivolio, a freshman heading home at the end of this session. Bentivolio sought co-sponsors for a similar bill last year, but it was never introduced. Stockman’s proposal is more broad. In addition to targeting the District, it would cut certain federal highway funds from any state or local government that uses automated traffic enforcement systems.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., caught wind of Stockman’s attempt to curtail traffic cameras and accused both Republicans of bullying the District.

“These two Members, on their way out of Congress, have turned their focus away from their own constituents,” Norton said in a statement. “So, free from accountability to their own residents, they are making a last ditch attempt to secure a legacy on the backs of District of Columbia residents.”

Stockman did not respond to requests for comment about the legislation.

Stockman might still be seeing more of D.C. than he would like. He and three of his staffers were recently subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Stockman has been under scrutiny for campaign contributions from his staff.

Related:

Gray Signs D.C. Handgun Law to ‘Cure Alleged Constitutional Flaws’

Steve Stockman, Three Aides Subpoenaed in District Court

Steve Stockman Not Going Gently Into That Good Night

Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat

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Report Outlines Constituent Meeting Do’s and Don’ts

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Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., talks with a constituent in between events in Baltimore. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Constituent participation is the key to scheduling meetings on Capitol Hill, according to a new report from the Congressional Management Foundation.

“Our number one factor in scheduling a meeting is if a constituent is in the group,” one House scheduler wrote in an anonymous survey by CMF. “Constituents from our district take top priority over any other type of request.”

The CMF’s 15-page report, released Nov. 20 and titled “Face to Face with Congress: Before, During, and After Meetings With Legislators,” is based on nearly 450 responses from legislative staff surveys conducted between 2010 and 2013. It details advice for scheduling, conducting, and following up after meetings with congressional staff. Full story

Congressional Future Caucus Promotes ‘Giving Tuesday’

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Lawmakers want to designate Dec. 2 as “Giving Tuesday,” a national day of giving and volunteerism. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After shoppers hunt for the best deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some members of Congress are hoping Americans will pull out their wallets and roll up their sleeves for “Giving Tuesday.”

“This is something that should inspire that desire to be of service,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said in a phone interview on Nov. 24. “We look at Congress, we look at the partisanship, the partisan divide that’s there. This is something that Democrats and Republicans can work together on in a way that benefits everyone.”

On Nov. 20, Gabbard introduced a resolution to designate Dec. 2 as “Giving Tuesday, ” a national day of giving and volunteerism. The Hawaii Democrat introduced the bill along with her Congressional Future Caucus co-chairman, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. Reps. Juan C. Vargas, D-Calif., Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill, co-sponsored the resolution. Full story

Eisenhower Memorial Plan Still Faces Skepticism, Despite Approvals

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Simpson, left, and Calvert both want consensus from the Eisenhower family. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite rosy projections from Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission staff of breaking ground on a monument to the 34th president in the next calendar year, Capitol Hill’s representatives on the commission remain skeptical.

“Ultimately, what I think you’ve got to have is a buy-in from the Eisenhower family,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, one of six members of Congress on the bipartisan commission. Anne and Susan Eisenhower have requested a simpler design, although the current plan has gained traction with two of the federal entities that must sign off on final plans for the Southwest Washington memorial park.

“I don’t think you can do a memorial when you’ve got the family opposed to it,” Simpson said. He declined to give his own opinion of architect Frank Gehry’s plan for statues of Ike as a young boy in Kansas, World War II commander and president, set against a massive stainless steel tapestry depicting prairie scenery. Gehry’s plan originally called for two additional tapestries. But those were scrapped, leaving two freestanding 80-foot columns that have continued to draw criticism. Full story

November 25, 2014

Ferguson Protesters March on Capitol, SCOTUS, DOJ

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Protesters chant in front of the White House on Nov. 24, following the announcement of no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Facedown on the pavement — meant to emulate the body of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot and killed on Aug. 9 — one protester sprawled on the sidewalk outside the Department of Justice in downtown Washington on Tuesday morning.

Only camouflage pants and sneakers were visible beneath a pile of blankets. Ribbons of tattered, yellow police tape snaked though the scene, some draped from the necks of about two dozen fellow demonstrators who surrounded the body, passing a bullhorn and shouting rallying cries in support of protesters in Ferguson, Mo., to pedestrians and police along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest.

“If black people in St. Louis can do it, then anybody can do it,” cried Lydia, a Howard University student and native of Missouri, who declined to give her last name. She told CQ Roll Call that she joined 200 other students in a march from U Street Northwest to the White House on Monday night, venting anger over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Brown. Full story

D.C. Statehood Activists Looking Toward GOP Congress

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Activists say local controversies, such as the case against Gray, can’t thwart cause. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If anyone understands what a “grungy game” politics can be, it’s Capitol Hill staffers.

That’s what Johnny Barnes, an attorney who spent 25 years working for members of the House, theorized when the front page of the Washington Post recently announced that federal prosecutors might be moving closer to indicting Mayor Vincent Gray. Barnes huddled on Nov. 18 with about a dozen D.C. residents in the lobby of the Hart Senate Office Building, preparing to pitch staffers on why the District deserves to be the 51st state.

“These folks,” Barnes said, “are less sensitive or less focused on that kind of thing, because they know what politics is about.” He chuckled during the interview, recalling his interactions with colorful Ohio Democrat James Traficant, who was booted from the House for corruption. “It’s a grungy game, and they know that.” Full story

November 24, 2014

Two Veteran Capitol Hill Staffers Honored for Leadership

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Hawkings, left, and Evans, right, were honored last week. Pomerantz, center, won the award in 2012. (Photo courtesy of the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership)

Two veteran Hill Staffers have been recognized for their commitment to public service and their leadership at a reception last week in the Capitol Building.

Bruce Evans, chief of staff for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Betsy Wright Hawkings, chief of staff for Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., received the William E. “Eph” Cresswell Congressional Staff Leadership Award from the Stennis Center for Public Service on Nov. 19. (Hawkings is married to Roll Call Senior Editor, David Hawkings.)

To be nominated for the award, which is given out once per Congress, a Hill staffer must have served at least 10 years in Congress, display effective leadership skills and work across the aisle. A member of Congress or a Senior John C. Stennis Congressional Staff Fellow can nominate a staffer, and the winners are selected by a committee of Stennis fellows.

David Pomerantz, the House Appropriations Committee’s Democratic staff director, received the first Cresswell award in 2012. The award’s namesake served as the chief of staff for the late Sen. John C. Stennis, D-Miss., and was a former chairman of the Stennis Center Board of Trustees. According to its website, the Stennis Center for Public Service is a legislative branch agency established in 1988 “to promote and strengthen publish service leadership in America.”

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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.

Related:

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

House Staff Members Are Signing Up for Obamacare, Figures Show

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