Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 23, 2014

August 23, 2014

Capitol Police Pay Tribute to First Line-of-Duty Death

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Vivian Eney Cross, left, is escorted by then-Capitol Police Chief Philip Morse during a 2009 ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thirty years ago Sunday, tragedy struck the Capitol Police.

Sgt. Christopher Sherman Eney, 37, was fatally shot in the lower back at the conclusion of a training exercise designed to help the officers prepare for hostage situations.

Capitol Police had been performing the drill with blanks loaded into the weapons, Roll Call reported at the time, but the officers had reloaded with live ammunition at the end of the exercise.

Full story

August 22, 2014

Lights May Go Out on Capitol Dome Friday Night

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The Dome may go dark tonight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Don’t be alarmed if the lights flicker outside the Capitol Dome Friday night. The enduring beacon of freedom isn’t dead — it’s undergoing regular maintenance.

The Architect of the Capitol is cautioning that brief power outages may occur as the agency performs planned maintenance to the electrical systems in the building. AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci assured CQ Roll Call the work is not related to the Dome restoration project, which has picked up pace during the August recess.

AOC electricians are responsible for thousands of miles of wiring and more than 100,000 light fixtures across Capitol Hill, according to the agency. Because many of the historic buildings on campus, including the Capitol, were built before electricity, they require continuous modernization and upgrades.

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Ferguson Protests Stay Peaceful in D.C., More Planned

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Protesters wave signs during a peaceful “Day of Rage” rally outside the White House. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Contrary to concerns about violence or vandalism, protesters held peaceful events in Washington Thursday night in response to events in Ferguson, Mo.

What had been billed as a “Day of Rage” in front of the White House drew about two dozen people, including D.C. and St. Louis natives, and a cadre of local press. A handful of protesters sported Guy Fawkes masks often associated with Anonymous, the activist network that called for the nationwide rallies.

Close to 50 people gathered at a plaza across the street from the Columbia Heights Metro station to protest police brutality and the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. A Metropolitan Police Department vehicle was parked nearby, watching the crowd chant, “No racist police!”

Though the crowd was smaller at the White House, the police presence was heavier. Three officers stood casually behind the protesters, as Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin led the group in song.

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August 21, 2014

Authorities Prepare for Ferguson Protests in Washington

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Peaceful demonstrators march on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Downtown business owners and property managers in the District of Columbia are warning of the potential for violent Ferguson-related protests Thursday night.

Building managers suggested lockdowns and alternate travel routes to counter a national “Day of Rage” rally, planned to begin outside the White House at 7 p.m. The D.C. event is one of dozens of protests called for by the activists of Anonymous in a video that asks citizens “to collectively gather in support for those who are suffering in Ferguson.”

Update: Protests Stay Peaceful, More Planned

Capitol Police also are on alert for any protests near the Hill, hoping to keep things calm while still allowing demonstrators to exercise First Amendment rights.

“We are in continuous contact with our [law enforcement] partners regarding the proposed activity around D.C. and maintain our constant state of vigilance throughout the Capitol Campus,” department spokesman Shennell Antrobus told CQ Roll Call in an email.

Full story

August 19, 2014

Norton Questions Mostly White Ferguson Government

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Norton criticized racial disparities in Ferguson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is characterizing the nearly all-white elected leadership and police force in majority-black Ferguson, Mo., as “poison.”

“Here you have mostly white police force in a mostly black community, but I’m really perplexed about why most of the elected officials are white as well,” Norton, a Democrat, said Tuesday during an interview with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart. “Is there something about the way elections are done in Missouri or in the county?”

Though members of Congress have raised the alarm about mounting violence and militarized police in the St. Louis suburb, Norton, a Yale-educated civil rights lawyer, may be among the first to raise the issue of racial disparity among Ferguson’s elected leadership.
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Planes Flying Over D.C. for Aerospace Defense Tests

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Look skyward Tuesday and you might see some low-flying military aircraft over the District of Columbia.

But don’t panic: The planes are likely part of a practice run.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command will be practicing intercept and identification procedures over the region between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. More exercises will take place Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

The flights are scheduled to take place in or around the District, Virginia and Maryland. People in those areas may hear and or see low-flying NORAD-controlled helicopters flying near military or military contracted aircraft.

NORAD has tested its systems throughout the U.S. and Canada on a rotating basis since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The organization tests responses to a variety of scenarios including airspace restriction violations and hijackings. Tuesday’s test flights mark the first time NORAD has tested in the National Capital Region this year, according to authorities.

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August 18, 2014

In Wake of Recent Arrests, Security Tightens at House Garages

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Law enforcement officials on Capitol Hill are making it harder for people without congressional identification badges to avoid security checks in the wake of recent arrests for carrying handguns.

On Monday morning, Capitol Police began enforcing a new ID check policy at the House garages. When a car pulls up, officers check for the requisite parking stickers and ask every passenger to show credentials. Any passenger over the age of 18 who is without a congressional ID is required to exit the vehicle prior to its entry into the garage.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving announced the change late on Aug. 15 in a memo to members of Congress and staff that was obtained by CQ Roll Call. According to the notice, passengers without ID will be directed to a pedestrian entrance. At those doors, they would be required to empty their pockets and submit to a search involving X-ray machines and magnetometers.

The change is an effort to “tighten security” at the House garages, according to a high-ranking security official who spoke on background about the changes. It comes after two incidents that have cast campus security in a new light.

During a search one month ago, Capitol Police found a 9 mm handgun in the bag of Ryan Shucard, press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. Police arrested Shucard, stopping him from bringing the weapon into the Cannon House Office building.

Five days later, Capitol Police arrested South Carolina pork executive Ronald Prestage at another Cannon door after finding a loaded 9 mm handgun inside an ankle holster in his briefcase.

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Folger Shakespeare Library Staff Mourns Death of Cataloger

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Co-workers pay tribute to Seiler, 36, who was killed in a traffic crash last week. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Next to the guest log at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Monday sat a manilla folder containing a sympathy card for the family of an employee killed on Aug. 15 in a tragic traffic crash.

Nadia Sophie Seiler, a 36-year-old Wheaton, Md., resident who worked as a rare materials cataloger at the library just east of the Capitol, died at a local hospital from injuries sustained when her gray Honda scooter collided with a flatbed truck on Connecticut Avenue Northwest. The crash took place at approximately 8:24 a.m. on Aug. 15, as Seiler was on her way to a Society of American Archivists convention at a nearby hotel.

In the basement break room where employees meet each morning to share coffee and small talk, supervisor Erin Blake shared her memories of Seiler. The woman worked as a cataloger at the library — home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare material — reading Renaissance-era handwritten manuscripts for close to seven years.

“Nadia was fascinated by the puzzle of deciphering it, and she picked it up really quickly,” Blake said. She “would find interesting bits of letters and receipt books to read out loud to us. We’d hear her snicker at her desk then people would come over and say, ‘What is it? What did you find?’”

Co-workers draped Seiler’s desk in a blanket and set up a framed photo collage, showing her posing among cherry blossoms and flashing a big smile. Seiler sports floppy white ears as part of a “dust bunny” costume in one photo, snapped during a staff Halloween party. In another, Seiler and her fiancé clutch ice cream cones. Blake said the couple had just picked up a marriage license for the wedding they had planned for Aug. 30.

Seiler had a great eye for the rare findings that would fascinate scholars, Blake said. For instance, she loved sharing ancient recipes uncovered in culinary and medicinal texts. In a post on the library’s blog, Seiler gave readers a window into 17th century breast cancer treatments involving unusual ingredients.

“As unappealing as woodlouse beer and goose dung or pig fat ointments might seem to a modern audience, these were not uncommon ingredients and provided women of the period with an alternative to surgery, which was an aggressive and painful form of treatment,” Seiler wrote.

Blake said Seiler was a “natural cataloger,” with a background in art history and English. She was a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota, and held a master’s degree in archives and records management from the University of Michigan, according to online records.

“It’s a small organization here and we’re all very close,” Blake said, explaining the morning coffee ritual that brought all the employees together in the break room. “It really is like family.”

On Monday, they planned a slide show tribute to Seiler. The library has not yet released a formal statement on her death, out of respect for her family. Plans for a memorial and funeral service have not been announced.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department are still investigating the accident.

August 15, 2014

Break Room Fire Causes Evacuation at Capitol Power Plant

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(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Capitol Power Plant was briefly evacuated Friday afternoon, as firefighters responded to a small fire in the break room.

Around 3:45 p.m., Capitol Police sent out an alert to notify the campus community that the complex on E Street Southeast was being evacuated due to signs of smoke. Fortunately, it was not an industrial blaze, but a small fire in an area with paper products, according to department spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:05 p.m.
AOC, Capitol Police

August 14, 2014

Capitol Hill Gets First Openly Transgender Staffer of 113th Congress

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New hire pushes gay-rights agenda on the Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Hill is getting its sole transgender staff member, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute announced Thursday.

Connecticut native Ben Panico, who last year interned in the office of Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., through the institute, has been appointed as a fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. He will spend a year helping the caucus, founded in 2008, pursue an ambitious gay-rights agenda in a Congress with a record number of openly gay lawmakers. He is the first openly transgender person to hold the position.

“I first started my work at Victory as a Congressional Intern and have now risen through Victory’s programing to a Congressional Fellow,” Panico said in a statement released by the organization, which has brought more than 20 college leaders to the District since launching its internship program in 2011. The fellowship program launched in 2013.

Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 1:44 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

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