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

October 24, 2014

Ebola Roundtable Sparks Divisions Over District’s Preparedness

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A protester outside of the White House encourages a travel ban from Ebola-affected countries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Though national attention turned to a congressional hearing on Ebola preparedness Friday, two members of D.C. Council Committee on Health also met to assess how the District is preparing for the virus, resulting in clashes between lawmakers, hospital officials and nurses.

“We are nowhere near prepared for an Ebola patient at our hospital,” said Jowita Lyn, an emergency room nurse at Providence Hospital in Northeast D.C.

Referring to breaches in protocol that led to two nurses contracting Ebola while treating an infected patient in Dallas, Texas, Lyn said, “What happened at Texas Health Presbyterian could easily happen at Providence Hospital.”

Lyn treated one of the suspected Ebola patients in D.C. at Providence. She said she knew to ask whether the patient had traveled to an affected country because of her own research on the subject.

The nurse said the only training she received was a printout of Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Lyn also said the protective gear at the hospital were “paper thin gowns that are barely thicker than a napkin.” Full story

CREW Awarded $86K After Court Fight for Don Young Documents

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CREW filed suit for information on corruption probe of Young. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Refusing to release information on the “Coconut Road Corruption Investigation” that targeted Rep. Don Young will cost the Department of Justice more than $86,000, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia has ruled.

The order stems from a long-running corruption probe into House’s longest-serving Republican, who has earned a reputation for his brash behavior on Capitol Hill and back home in Alaska. In 2008, Congress directed DOJ to examine Young’s role in steering $10 million into a Florida transportation project. It concluded in 2010 with no charges against Young, but Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wanted more details on what DOJ uncovered. Full story

Gainer’s Capitol Fence Is Not a Popular Concept

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Securing the perimeter of the Capitol’s open campus is a challenge for Capitol Police. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The idea of building a security fence around the Capitol appears just as unpopular now as it was a decade ago, when then-Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer pitched the idea to Congress.

In 2004, House appropriators added language to the legislative branch appropriations bill to prohibit Capitol Police from spending public dollars on the project. At the time, amendment sponsor Sam Farr, D-Calif., said a fence “really hurt the image and understanding of what a democracy is all about.”

Gainer, who retired from his post as Senate sergeant-at-arms in the spring, is again talking about erecting a “tasteful fence” about a block around the Capitol that would allow people to get screened before entering the campus, but current law enforcement officials aren’t commenting and elected officials aren’t biting. Full story

The Have-Nots: 132 Members Show Negative Net Worth

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Roll Call ranks Brooks No. 407 in Congress because of his negative minimum net worth. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the wealth of Congress surged $150 million last year and at least a third of federal lawmakers are millionaires, there’s a sizable group of have-nots in Congress too.

Some 132 members of Congress — nearly a quarter — have a negative minimum net worth. That includes the 10 “Poorest” Members of Congress, who all have substantial debt.

Negative territory starts at No. 407 on Roll Call’s first-ever complete ranking of lawmakers by their minimum net worth, with Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama earning the distinction. That place is just below Democratic Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia, who has a flat zero in the assets column. Brooks’ minimum net worth dropped from last year, when his financial disclosure forms reviewed by Roll Call showed he was worth a minimum $180,000.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle places at No. 408, with at least $170,000 in liabilities and $160,000 in assets. Full story

October 23, 2014

WMATA: Current Procedures ‘Sufficient’ for Countering Ebola

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WMATA will not institute new protocols to address Ebola. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the wake of concerns about the Ebola virus in the U.S., leaders in the D.C. transit system met last week to review protocols for preventing the spread of infectious diseases on the metro system and determined current procedures were sufficient to counter the virus.

Richard Sarles, general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, sent an email to WMATA employees Monday, explaining that he met with “senior leaders in our Rail, Bus, Safety, MetroAccess and Police departments” to review the protocols.

Sarles did not say that any new policies would be put in place to respond to Ebola, but instructed employees to continue to follow existing procedures to prevent infections.

“We reviewed both standard operating procedures for routine cleaning, as well as more extensive responses to address health hazards throughout the system,” Sarles wrote in the email, obtained by CQ Roll Call. “Given the fact that we are entering flu season, as well as rising concerns about the transmission of the Ebola virus, I want to remind all of us about the protocols we must follow.” Full story

D.C. Board of Elections: ‘Well, We Messed Up.’

upsidedownflag 309x330 D.C. Board of Elections: Well, We Messed Up.

One week later, the board of elections is apologizing. (via @ericfidler)

One week after a lighthearted dismissal of the error, the District of Columbia’s election board issued a formal apology to voters for printing an upside down image of the D.C. flag on its official voter guide.

“Well, we messed up. BIG time,” the three-person board said Thursday in a statement that also expressed regret for “fumbling” its handling of the issue on Oct. 16.

The apology comes after a Tuesday news conference in which Mayor Vincent Gray said the flub has “tested severely” his faith in the independent agency responsible for the administration of elections, ballot access and voter registration. ”I don’t have … a lot of evidence that I can point to at this stage that would lead me to have a lot of confidence in what’s going to happen between now and, of course, Nov. 4,” Gray said. Full story

Do the Capitol’s Sergeants-at-Arms Carry Guns? (Video)

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Gainer, left, at the Capitol in April with his predecessors Al Lenhardt and William Pickle. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of the Canadian Parliament are praising as a hero House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former police superintendent, for his reported role in taking down the gunman who entered the building. Capitol Hill may be wondering if its own sergeants-at-arms usually pack heat.

“I didn’t carry it all the time,” former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Thursday morning. “I had it close at hand in a locked compartment.”

Gainer, who served as chief of the Capitol Police before his seven-year gig in the Senate, said he frequently relied on the uniformed officers of the department. “We have concentric circles of security around here and so they are the first line of defense, but as the chief law enforcement officer, I was armed when I needed to be or thought it was appropriate,” he said.

Full story

October 22, 2014

Capitol Police Monitoring Canadian Parliament Shooting (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:30 p.m. | Capitol Police say they are monitoring the Wednesday morning shooting inside the Canadian Parliament, but have not taken any “significant” steps to heighten security around Congress.

Canada’s legislature was locked down after a gunman shot a soldier at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa and was then chased by police into the main parliament building. Witnesses said 20 to 30 shots were fired there, according to a CBC News, report posted at 10:02 a.m.

Police and tactical teams have converged on the area, and Canadian armed forces bases across country are being closed to public as part of the response.

Lt. Kimberly Schneider said in an 11:39 a.m. email that Capitol Police are tracking the event.

“As of this writing, no modification to our security posture — still at our post-9/11 heightened state of alertness,” Schneider said.

At 12:45 p.m., Schneider added to the earlier comment, telling CQ Roll Call there had been no “significant” changes to security.

“The department “remains at a post-9/11 heightened level of awareness, with no significant modification to our security posture,” she said. “The USCP continues to monitor and track the Canadian event.”

The Canadian Embassy in D.C. is on lockdown, according to multiple reports. The complex is located only a few blocks from the Capitol at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

On Tuesday, Canada raised its domestic terror threat level from low to medium after a man attacked two Canadian soldiers in Quebec.

Related:

Former Top Cop Suggest Capitol Complex Is Too Open

Second Capitol Gun Case Ends With Plea Deal

Capitol Hill Staffer Arrested on Gun Charge Returns to Work

Pork Executive Was Carrying ‘Fully Functional’ Pistol, Police Say

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

Capitol Police Stop Another Gun From Entering Cannon Building (Updated)

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By Hannah Hess Posted at 12:13 p.m.
Uncategorized

West Virginia’s Members of Congress Wealthiest, Arkansas Lawmakers are Poorest

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Capito is a member of the richest delegation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the richest member of Congress, might hail from California, but the Golden State does not actually have the richest delegation, according to the first-of-its kind Roll Call ranking of every single member of Congress based on financial disclosure forms covering 2013.

Roll Call’s ranking by minimum net worth as of the 2014 disclosures gives readers a clear view of which states truly have the richest and poorest delegations and the widest gaps between each state’s lawmakers.

The richest delegation distinction goes to West Virginia, with an average net worth of $23.6 million. The No. 4 richest member of Congress hails from the Mountain State: Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, worth at least $108.05 million.

Through Rockefeller’s wealth boosts the state’s average net worth, West Virginia still came out on top when comparing the median net worth for each state because of the wealth of the state’s other four lawmakers. 

Only one West Virginian, Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, is worth less than $1 million. (There are at least 188 millionaires serving in Congress.) But Capito, who is in a competitive race for the Senate, is not too far behind her fellow West Virginians with a minimum net worth of least $450,000 according to the Roll Call ranking.

Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 11:58 a.m.
50 Richest

Former Top Cop Suggests Capitol Complex Is Too Open (Audio)

Congress’ former top cop thinks there should be major changes to security at the 276-acre Capitol complex, saying its open and accessible campus is “much to my chagrin.”

Terrance W. Gainer said in an interview he would add gates around the Capitol perimeter and consider re-routing traffic around campus. Gainer made his comments as a federal judge ordered Omar Gonzalez to undergo a mental health evaluation within the next 30 days to determine whether he is competent to stand trial on federal and local charges of infiltrating the White House on Sept. 19. The case is causing major repercussions for the Secret Service.

It also prompted Gainer, the former Senate sergeant-at-arms who also served four years as the chief of the Capitol Police, to frankly address the challenges for guarding the complex against intrusions.

“One of the challenges the chief has, or the director of the Secret Service, is keeping everybody sharp all the time,” Gainer told CQ Roll Call. “Up on Capitol Hill we have, you know, 25,000 employees and 3 million visitors so it is very open, and keeping the officers alert and active, you know, is an important challenge.”

Full story

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