Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 2, 2014

October 1, 2014

White House Jumper Pleads Not Guilty

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Gonzalez was arraigned for charges stemming from the White House intrusion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Had Secret Service agents acted differently on Sept. 19, the person who scaled the White House fence might have been shot dead on the North Lawn, and Julia A. Pierson might still be in place as the agency’s leader.

Instead, Omar J. Gonzalez — the man arrested after allegedly knocking back an officer posted inside the executive mansion’s doors and being tackled just outside the Green Room — appeared in an orange jumpsuit before a judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday afternoon.

Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to three charges stemming from the incident that has exposed the agency to intense scrutiny. About 90 minutes later, Pierson resigned. Full story

Catania, Schwartz Offer Different D.C. Statehood Plans

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two independent candidates vying to become the next D.C. mayor presented two different views on achieving voting rights for D.C. and how best to work with — and without — Congress to do so.

David Catania, a member of the D.C. council, told the several dozen voters gathered at the DC Vote forum that District residents cannot count on Congress to help them achieve full voting rights.

With cloudy skies and the Capitol Dome visible through the office window behind him, Catania said, “I think Congress is so profoundly broken at this point that it is really, you know, quite a tall order to expect a broken Congress that can’t pass federal budgets, that can’t really respond to American democracy, to in fact give us ours.” Full story

NPS Is Live-Streaming From Top of National Monument

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A tiny webcam is capturing action on the National Mall from the top of the Washington Monument. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just in time for the debut of a massive art exhibit spanning six acres of the National Mall, engineers have installed a live-streaming webcam near the top of the Washington Monument.

The National Park Service has partnered with EarthCam to fit a small, powerful camera into a pre-existing hole in the 555 foot tall national landmark. The feed, which captures the World War II Memorial, the reflecting pool and other iconic scenery, also shows Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada’s facescape, “Out of Many, One.”

Throughout September, more than 2,000 tons of sand, 800 tons of soil and 10,000 wooden pegs were installed on the mall for a work of art similar to what Rodríguez-Gerada has created for cities around the world, including in Belfast and Barcelona. The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association helped make the project viewable to the public with EarthCam.

This temporary installation is a composite portrait, blending the features of 18- to 25-year-old men from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds whom Rodríguez-Gerada photographed on the streets of Washington, D.C. Full story

House Caucus Rules Could Change for 114th Congress

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Scalise wants to make caucuses “more professional and transparent.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Nearly two decades after former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., terminated bank accounts for congressional caucuses and ordered them to vacate their Capitol Hill offices, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is aiming to amend House rules governing the member organizations.

Scalise told a House Rules panel convened recently to talk about proposals for the 114th Congress that he wants to build on the changes implemented under Gingrich, with the goal of making caucuses “more professional and transparent.”

The Louisiana Republican formerly served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, one of the 28 caucuses Gingrich sought to eliminate in 1995. The RSC has survived, and thrived, with more than 170 members among its ranks, and Scalise appears to be aiming to strengthen its operations. Scalise shared examples of administrative struggles and asked for a re-examination of the rules governing caucuses. He did not offer specifics, just the outcome of more desired transparency. Full story

September 30, 2014

Judge Rules Larry Craig Must Repay Campaign Funds Used in Bathroom Scandal

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Craig talks to reporters in 2007 after the bathroom sex scandal was revealed. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Larry Craig’s 2007 arrest in a Minnesota airport bathroom sex sting continues to cost the former senator.

A federal judge in the District of Columbia has ordered the Idaho Republican to pay $242,535 to the Department of the Treasury. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Craig must repay $197,533 in campaign funds from the Craig Committee, which functioned as “little more than an alter-ego for Senator Craig himself,” plus a $45,000 fine.

Federal Election Commission officials filed the complaint against Craig in 2012, alleging he illegally converted campaign money for personal use because the legal expenditures were not “made in connection with Mr. Craig’s campaign for federal office and were not ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his duties as a Senator.”

Craig’s attempts to dismiss the lawsuit were unsuccessful. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 6:56 p.m.

Ethics Office Finds Evidence Petri Violated House Rules

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Petri will get a look, says the House Ethics Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee announced on Tuesday it will continue to investigate whether Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., used his position in Congress to help certain companies in which he held significant financial interest.

But that’s the last the public will likely hear of the investigation.

Petri is retiring at the end of the 113th Congress, at which time the committee’s purview to probe his alleged misconduct will expire. And with Congress in recess until after the midterm elections, members of the panel have little time to act before the 17-term lawmaker’s last day on Capitol Hill. Full story

Omar Gonzalez Charged in White House Breach

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Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified before Congress on Tuesday about the breach. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Omar J. Gonzalez could spend 15 years in prison following his White House intrusion, which has raised  serious questions about the Secret Service.

A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Gonzalez, 42, formerly of Copperas Cove, Texas, on one federal charge of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon, and two violations of D.C. law: carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or place of business, and unlawful possession of ammunition.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Kathy A. Michalko, a special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Washington field office, announced the charges against Gonzalez, who has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 19. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:15 p.m.

Secret Service Takes Beating in Rare Recess Hearing (Video)

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Cummings and Issa greet Pierson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson took a beating from nearly 20 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lawmakers who traveled back to Washington for Tuesday’s rare, three-and-a-half hour recess hearing.

Droves of photographers packed into the panel’s Rayburn meeting room to capture Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., demanding succinct responses from Pierson about botched security and the Sept. 19 incident in which Iraq war veteran Omar J. Gonzalez jumped the White House fence and made it into the building.

“Ma’am, I want a short answer,” Issa challenged during the first round of questioning for the embattled director. “I have very little time. Was he in fact — the federal complaint said he was — he was in fact apprehended in one place. Isn’t it true he was apprehended further into the White House?”

Full story

Watch Live: House Committee Hearing on White House Security Breach

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing examining the Sept. 19 intrusion into the White House by 42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez, who officials say climbed the north fence of the complex and bolted into the North Portico with a 3 1/2-inch serrated blade folding knife in his pocket.

The committee has invited Secret Service Director Julia Pierson to testify. The hearing begins at 10 a.m.

Hannah Hess contributed to this report.

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September 29, 2014

D.C. to White House: Don’t Fence Us Out

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Norton toured the White House perimeter on Monday morning to examine recent security changes. (Photo courtesy of Norton’s office)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton didn’t like the lay of the land during a Monday stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“On my visit to the White House perimeter this morning, I saw the ugly barriers that keep people a few feet from the fence, with signs affixed to the barriers that said ‘Police Line, Do Not Cross,’” the D.C. Democrat said in a statement released on the eve of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Secret Service protocol.

Since Omar J. Gonzalez scaled the north fence on Sept. 19 and ran 70 yards to the unlocked front doors of the White House, the House GOP has been increasingly critical of the agency. New revelations reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, including that it took four days to realize gunfire had struck the White House in 2011, have raised fresh concern. Meanwhile, District officials fear new policies that could be detrimental to D.C. Full story

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