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

July 23, 2014

For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obama’s Actions Leave ‘a Lot to Be Desired’

dcvote 08 033011 1 440x294 For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obamas Actions Leave a Lot to Be Desired

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When voters elected Barack Obama in 2008, District of Columbia residents were thrilled to see a senator who backed a bill to give them voting rights in Congress head to the White House.

Midway through his second term, however, many ardent supporters of the D.C.’s longtime quest for greater autonomy are less optimistic about the prospects of Obama aiding their cause. The District still doesn’t have budget autonomy or legislative autonomy, meaning local laws are still vulnerable to interference from members of Congress.

“His actions over the last six years leave a lot to be desired,” Josh Burch, a Brookland resident who heads the group Neighbors United for DC Statehood, said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. Burch and other activists were pleased to hear the president declare his full-fledged support for D.C. statehood during a town hall meeting in Northwest Washington, but there is still a gap between the sentiment and concrete steps toward statehood. Full story

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

photo 4 247x330 Capitol Police Stop Another Gun From Entering Cannon Building (Updated)

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:25 p.m. | Capitol Police confiscated a 9mm Ruger handgun from the bag of Camden, S.C., resident Ronald William Prestage shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning at the Cannon House Office Building. Prestage, 59, was arrested and charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a District of Columbia offense that carries up to five years in prison.

Records indicate he has a concealed carry permit in South Carolina. Prestage is a veterinarian and farm operator, and is president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council. He may have been on the Hill to lobby on agriculture issues.

Two officers escorted Prestage from the building in handcuffs around 9:35 a.m., and loaded him into a waiting police van. He did not respond to questions from CQ Roll Call.

Prestage was taken to Capitol Police headquarters for processing, according to department spokesman Shennell Antrobus.

The northeast Cannon door reopened around 9:50 a.m.

Related:

Shucard Pleads Not Guilty to Carrying Pistol to Capitol Hill

Handgun Incident Casts Campus Security in New Light

Marino Staffer Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

Webb Aide Could Get 5 Years

Gun-Related Arrest Is Nothing New for Capitol Police

Scarce Prospects for Senate Shooting Down D.C. Gun Control

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

July 22, 2014

Tennessee Man Arrested for Threatening to Kill Obama, Romney, Paul Ryan

Police have arrested a Tennessee man who allegedly threatened to kill President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and shoot other national and local officials.

In three profanity-laced voice mails left July 11 at the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security, Jimmie Randall Johnson Jr. named a long list of leaders and said he would “blow them all up” and “come with an AK and kill all you [expletive],” according to an arrest warrant charging Johnson with harassment. Tennessee Homeland Security Director David Purkey and Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Tommy Farmer were also specifically threatened.

Johnson, 45, left his name in the second call.

In an additional message on July 12, Johnson allegedly threatened to “light Nashville up,” and again threatened Romney and Ryan.

Records from the service provider traced the calls back to Johnson’s address in Ardmore, Tenn., near the Alabama border. Secret Service agents traveled to Huntsville, Ala., to interview him on July 18. Authorities say Johnson also admitted to leaving the messages during the interview.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

D.C. Residents Keep Facing Questions About Identification

norton 05 040110 440x292 D.C. Residents Keep Facing Questions About Identification

One form of D.C. ID should be enough, according to Norton. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A District of Columbia driver’s license should be enough identification to allow citizens to board a plane or enter a federal building, according to federal and local officials. So how come there’s so much confusion on the topic?

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., plans to meet with top Transportation Security Administration officials soon to clear up continuing problems D.C. residents face when trying to use their District-issued licenses for identification.

The issue is coming to a head at the nation’s airports and as states attempt to comply with the REAL ID act, which aims to set minimum security standards for forms of identification that are used to enter federal buildings and travel in a federally regulated manner.  Full story

Capitol Police Complete Investigation of Suspicious Substance in Capitol Visitor Center (Updated)

cvc072214 440x284 Capitol Police Complete Investigation of Suspicious Substance in Capitol Visitor Center (Updated)

Capitol Police investigating a suspicious substance Tuesday carry their equipment back to the hazmat truck after declaring the area clear. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 10:38 a.m. | Capitol Police sealed entrances to the Capitol Visitor Center shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, in response to a suspicious substance.

Trapped groups of tourists and tour guides milled about in the main level, waiting for an all-clear so that they could enter the Capitol as police investigated in Emancipation Hall.

Escalators to and from the Capitol and outside entrances were ordered closed, as police implemented a shelter in place.

Capitol Police spokesman Shennell Antrobus confirmed the investigation to CQ Roll Call.

At about 9:50 a.m. Capitol Police radios began buzzing with the news that the suspicious substance tested negative and normal operations would soon resume, once the HAZMAT team cleared the scene.

A group of about 30 tourists who had been led out of the CVC theatre during the 45-minute investigation geared up for their tour of the Capitol. An officer joked with them that the well-rested CVC tour guides, also waiting for an all-clear signal, would show them a great time once operations resumed.

Shortly before 10 a.m., word spread that the doors and escalators were re-opening. A handful of Capitol employees who had been waiting in the Crypt boarded the escalator down to the CVC. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 9:39 a.m.
Capitol Police, CVC

July 21, 2014

Ryan Shucard Case Highlights Gun Law Discrepancies

Staff in Rep. Tom Marino’s office are convinced that Ryan Shucard, the press secretary that arrived at the Cannon House Office building toting a 9 mm handgun on Friday morning, was not planning to harm anyone with the gun.

“No, not at all,” said Bill Tighe, chief of staff for the two-term Pennsylvania Republican, said when asked if staff thought Shucard had ill intentions. Capitol Police also indicated it was an accident, according to Tighe.

Tighe said he was not formally aware that Shucard, a resident of Alexandria, Va., owned a gun. Shucard was hired by Marino’s office in late May. Tighe said he did not know whether Shucard, 26, was registered, trained or permitted to hold a gun in Virginia, where gun laws are less strict than in the District. Full story

Queen Bee Hawking Jewelry for the ‘Powers That Bee’ on Capitol Hill

bee2 330x330 Queen Bee Hawking Jewelry for the Powers That Bee on Capitol Hill

Brooks brings her creations to the Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Allison Priebe Brooks)

A jewelry designer with a knack for brightening up Washington’s prim business attire brings her signature necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings to Capitol Hill this week for an exclusive trunk show and sale.

Senate staffer-turned-accessory entrepreneur Allison Priebe Brooks, founder of Queen Bee Designs, will set up shop at Cornerstone Government Affairs, 300 Independence Ave. SE, on Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. With a client list that includes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La.; Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., and plenty of congressional spouses, she expects to see plenty of traffic from the powers that be — “or bee” — as Brooks likes to joke.

“Working on the Hill, people seem to dress really conservatively,” Brooks said in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “Our jewelry creates a buzz,” she said, pairing well with everything from neutral power suits to cocktail attire. Full story

Muslim on Capitol Hill: Staffers Look to Rebuild

CMSA 148 071114 440x235 Muslim on Capitol Hill: Staffers Look to Rebuild

Staffers participate in a Friday prayer session in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As rain pelted the capital, more than 200 Muslim Americans gathered in the Cannon House Office Building to break their daily fast.

They are in the midst of Ramadan, the annual monthlong period of fasting from sunup to sundown.

For the Muslim staffers and government employees gathered for a traditional dinner known as an iftar, the night was also a chance to connect with members of Congress and network with other D.C. professionals. “To have this iftar dinner and to do it here in the Capitol, where you belong, where we all belong, was a very smart thing to start,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told the crowd.

Although 200 participants was no small number for the July 10 celebration, the iftar in 2009 drew an estimated 1,000 people to the Hill, thanks in part to an active Congressional Muslim Staff Association. The group was formed in 2006 and regularly held networking events and briefings on the Muslim community.

A few years later, in the 113th Congress, the CMSA did not even list itself as an official association — due to a turnover in leadership, lack of participation and what some regarded as a backlash against Muslim staffers. While the organization is taking steps to re-register as an official association, it is definitely in rebuilding mode.

Former CMSA members are optimistic the staff association will make a comeback as younger staffers step into leadership roles, but there’s a broader problem: attracting young Muslims to Capitol Hill in the first place.

Full story

July 19, 2014

Ryan Shucard Pleads Not Guilty to Carrying Pistol to Capitol Hill

Ryan Shucard, the Capitol Hill aide who allegedly tried to bring a 9 mm handgun and magazine to work Friday, was released from police custody on Saturday afternoon after pleading not guilty to a felony charge for carrying a pistol.

Shucard exercised his Fifth Amendment right during his minute-long arraignment, standing silently beside his lawyer in khaki pants and a long-sleeved, collared shirt with shackles around his ankles and wrists. With no objection from the government lawyers working on the case, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher released Shucard with instructions to return to court on Aug. 7.

When the Colorado native entered the courtroom around 1:30 p.m., a blond woman began dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She was sitting next to a girl and man who later identified themselves as members of Shucard’s family. The trio followed Shucard out of the courtroom. Shucard, his family and his lawyer, Jason Kalafat, declined to comment to CQ Roll Call.

Shucard has been placed on unpaid leave from the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., where he had been serving as press secretary since May 2014. The University of Northern Colorado and George Washington University alumnus got his start on the Hill in October 2011 as a staff assistant for then-Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.

What might have provoked the incident, which resulted in Capitol Police arrested Shucard around 9:15 a.m. on Friday morning, remains unclear, but the confiscated handgun has been raising new questions about campus security.

Related:

Handgun Incident Casts Campus Security in New Light

Marino Staffer Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

Scarce Prospects for Senate Shooting Down D.C. Gun Control

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

Correction:

An earlier version of this post misstated the date Schucard was instructed to return to court.

July 18, 2014

Ryan Shucard Handgun Incident Casts Campus Security in New Light (Updated)

Updated 6:11 p.m. | Metal detectors and X-ray machines at the southeast door of the Cannon House Office Building  stopped Capitol Hill press secretary Ryan Shucard from allegedly carrying a 9 mm handgun and magazine to work on Friday.

Shucard, a staffer in the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., was arrested by Capitol Police and charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Shucard could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the felony, according to Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which will review the case.

Opponents of congressional efforts to wipe out the District’s gun laws seized on the arrest as an example of hypocrisy, while members of the Capitol Hill community pondered what could have happened if Shucard entered Cannon via the building’s garage. Full story

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