Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 27, 2015

February 26, 2015

Kerry Bentivolio Files for Bankruptcy

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fewer than two months after the Santa Claus impersonator and reindeer farmer who represented southeast Michigan for one term left Congress, the tea party-inspired Republican has filed for bankruptcy.

Former Rep. Kerry Bentivolio listed more than $294,000 in liabilities in documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Monday. Bentivolio, 63, owes nearly $55,000 to two Michigan-based law firms, and has been ordered to pay $120,000 in a case stemming from an illegal campaign claim from his former consultant. Full story

Private Plane Rides Have Bumpy Congressional History

Schock"to stay connected with my constituents," and also travels for campaign fundraising purposes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Schock’s office explained his frequent flights as a way “to stay connected with my constituents.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Among the serious accusations of improper spending leveled at Rep. Aaron Schock since The Washington Post shined a spotlight on his “Downton Abbey”-themed office are at least a dozen flights aboard his political donors’ private planes.

But Rep. Don Young and a handful of other lawmakers have pushed to change the very ethics rule Schock is alleged to have violated by accepting flights aboard privately owned aircraft. Full story

February 25, 2015

Officer Morale a Hot Topic for Capitol Police at Appropriations Hearing

The U.S. Capitol Police Recruit Officer Class 177 is sworn in during a ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Wasserman Schultz worries low morale among Capitol Police could distract from protecting the complex. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Low morale among Capitol Police was a hot topic for law enforcement officials on Wednesday during a series of panels convened by the House lawmakers who set the department’s budget.

Both House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine fielded questions about low officer morale from longtime Legislative Branch appropriator Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the subcommittee’s top Democrat. She professed a “notable uptick” in the number of officers pulling her aside on the Hill to chat about internal department issues. Full story

D.C. Stands Up to Congress on Marijuana Legalization (Updated)

Updated 5:41 p.m. | As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the District of Columbia will legalize marijuana, despite warnings from two congressional Republicans that doing so would break the law and could lead to possible prison time for D.C. officials.

“Our government is prepared to implement and enforce Initiative 71 in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a briefing Wednesday, where D.C. officials presented a united front against congressional opposition. Bowser was joined by District Attorney General Karl Racine, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and eight members of the D.C. Council, including Chairman Phil Mendelson. Full story

Congress Investigating D.C. Marijuana Legalization

Chaffetz is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Chaffetz is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One day before the District of Columbia is set to legalize marijuana, members of Congress are launching an investigation into D.C.’s decision to do so, and warning that implementing legalization would break the law.

“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., wrote in a letter sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser early Wednesday morning.

Full story

February 23, 2015

Court Reinstates FMLA Complaint Against Capitol Police

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Capitol Police officer who sued the department in April 2012 with allegations of Family and Medical Leave Act interference and retaliation won a small victory in District of Columbia appeals court on Feb. 20 when the court reinstated her claim.

Judy Anne Gordon, a private first class assigned to the Capitol Division, applied for 240 hours of FMLA leave in May 2011, about six months after her husband’s suicide. The Indian Hill, Md., resident filed medical papers explaining she was experiencing intermittent periods of severe and incapacitating depression as a result of the suicide.

Full story

Capitol Police Chief’s Leadership Questioned

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

The State of the Union car chase has put Dine’s leadership of the Capitol Police under scrutiny. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The State of the Union night car chase that ended without arrest added new strains to already tense relationships inside the law enforcement community on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Police officers who were disturbed and embarrassed by the Jan. 20 incident allege it’s part of a frustrating pattern. They say commanders have instructed the rank and file to refrain from “low-value” stops — including traffic violations involving drunk driving and drug impairment on streets around the Capitol campus, multiple sources confirmed — because those arrests do not contribute to thwarting terrorism and protecting Congress.

Within the Capitol, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin were frustrated when they were unable to get an accurate portrayal of the facts about the high-speed chase that ended on Washington Avenue Southwest, adjacent to the Rayburn House Office Building.

Full story

February 21, 2015

Court Gives Bowser Budget Autonomy Deadline

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser has until March 16 to make a decision. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has paused an ongoing case over budget autonomy, giving Mayor Muriel Bowser until March 16 to solidify her position in the case, public court documents filed Friday show.

The decision comes after Bowser filed a motion for abeyance on Feb. 13, asking the court to suspend the case she inherited from her predecessor, Vincent C. Gray, which pitted the mayor’s office against the D.C. Council. In the order filed Friday, the circuit judges granted Bowser’s motion, giving her 30 days to review her position.

Full story

February 20, 2015

Vitter Extends Deadline for Obamacare Documents From D.C., House, Senate

Vitter is continuing to demand answers about congressional health care enrollment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vitter is demanding answers about congressional health care enrollment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter is continuing his investigation into congressional health care enrollment, and he was not satisfied with recent responses from the D.C. government and House and Senate officials.

The Louisiana Republican issued a statement Thursday to announce he’s giving the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, the House Clerk and the Senate financial clerk until Feb. 24 to answer questions and provide documents regarding health care enrollment. He wants to know why members of Congress and their staffs were allowed to enroll in the D.C. small-business exchange, despite the fact Congress does not fit the definition of a small business. The original deadline was Feb. 13, but the responses to Vitter’s investigation were unsatisfactory, so he has extended the deadline.

“My investigation is centered on determining how Congress was designated as a small business in order to exempt its roughly 16,000 employees, including Members, from clear requirements under Obamacare,” Vitter said in a statement. “Yet the key players involved appear unwilling to comply with a straightforward congressional request.”

In a letter sent last week to the three agencies, Vitter requested the DCHBE meet with him to discuss enrollment; that House and Senate offices disclose who directed officials to “falsify” exchange applications; that electronic copies of the applications be provided without redactions and that Congress and the District only allow small businesses to participate in the exchange.

Vitter’s request came after documents, made public as part of a lawsuit the watchdog group Judicial Watch filed against DCHBE in October, revealed the House and Senate applications claimed the institutions had 45 employees and classified them as “state/local government.” The electronic signatures, showing which congressional employees certified the applications were valid, were redacted.

DCBHE Executive Director Mila Kofman, who is a defendant in the Judicial Watch case, wrote in a letter to Vitter last week, saying she could not provide documents or information due to the ongoing lawsuit. She also wrote, “Providing enrollment applications for any of our customers would be considered a breach of trust.”

Ileana Garcia, the financial clerk of the Senate, wrote in a letter to Vitter that the Senate Disbursing Office provided data to D.C. Health Link in order to conform with the technological system that could not be altered.

“Administrative offices were instructed to use DC Health Link and understood that, due to compressed implementation time frame, system modifications to the DC Health Link system were not an option,” Garcia wrote. “As a result, it was necessary to provide data that was compatible for system processing to establish the required employer account in a timely manner.”

“[D]espite technical challenges, to the best of the Disbursing Office’s knowledge, this office, at no time in the process, provided any part misleading information,” she later added.

Vitter also demanded answers from the House Clerk, but House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy declined to provide information, arguing that Vitter’s role as Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee chairman does not give him jurisdiction over House offices. Cassidy noted that his response would likely be similar to the Senate Disbursing Office’s response to Vitter’s requests.

But Vitter was not satisfied by any of these letters. And if he does not get a satisfactory response from the agencies by next week, will there be a discussion about issuing subpoenas? “We’ll reassess after the deadline next week,” Small Business Committee spokeswoman Cheyenne Klotz said.

The investigation is a continuation of Vitter’s longstanding crusade against what he deems the “Washington Obamacare exemption,” or the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 ruling that allowed congressional employees to keep the government contribution to their health care. On Feb. 13, Vitter sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, explaining he is placing a procedural hold on the deputy director’s nomination until he receives answers about the decisions to continue the contribution and allow Congress to enroll in the small business exchange.

Related: 

Vitter Requests Obamacare Documents From D.C., House and Senate

D.C. Government: OPM Trumps Local Law on Congressional Health Care

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

GOP: Staffers Should Use Obamacare

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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February 19, 2015

Wisconsin GOP Files Ethics Complaint Against Baldwin (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:59 p.m. | The Wisconsin Republican Party wants the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the termination of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s deputy state director.

Marquette Baylor, who had led Baldwin’s operation in Milwaukee, was ousted in January after the senator came under scrutiny back home for her office not acting swiftly in response to a whistle-blower complaint about over prescribing medication at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility in the state.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 12:18 p.m.
Ethics

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