Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

Posts by Bridget Bowman

34 Posts

October 15, 2014

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

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DC Health Link enrollment under attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that members of Congress and congressional staffers who enrolled in health care via the D.C. small business exchange did so illegally.

At a press conference at the National Press Club Wednesday, Judicial Watch claimed the House and Senate should not have been classified as small businesses in the health care exchange. The group said the classification violated D.C. law, which characterizes small businesses as those with fewer than 50 employees.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton pointed to documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, showing House and Senate applications to the D.C. Exchange Authority categorized the institutions as small businesses with 45 employees.

“The documents we obtained from D.C. Health Exchange show that every member of Congress who has enrolled in Obamacare has obtained their insurance coverage — and any taxpayer subsidies — through fraud,” Fitton said Wednesday.

When asked for a comment on the lawsuit’s charges, a spokesperson for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority said, “We cannot comment on pending litigation.” Full story

October 9, 2014

Norton to GOP: Support Democracy for D.C., Not Just Hong Kong

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is urging Republican senators who called on President Barack Obama to support the democracy movement in Hong Kong to also support democracy in D.C.

A bipartisan group of senators, including 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats, sent a letter to the president Thursday, urging Obama to “voice U.S. support for full democracy in Hong Kong.” The group included senators from both ends of the political spectrum who united to write, “[We] strongly support the Hong Kong people’s aspiration for universal suffrage and full democracy.”

In a statement issued later in the day, Norton applauded the show of support for those in Hong Kong fighting for democracy. However, she noted that all of the Republicans who signed the letter and were in the Senate in 2009 voted that year against granting D.C. voting rights on the House floor.

“I hope the Republican signatories recognize their inconsistency in supporting democracy abroad while actively opposing it in their own nation’s capital,” Norton said.

Norton is the District’s only official representative in Congress and she cannot vote on the House floor.

The D.C. statehood movement did reach a milestone in the Senate this year, with the first hearing on the subject in two decades. However, as Norton acknowledged after the hearing, achieving D.C. statehood in the gridlocked 113th Congress is very unlikely.

Correction:

An earlier version of this story misstated the number of Republicans who voted against D.C. voting rights in 2009.

Related Stories:

Senators to Obama: Do Something About Hong Kong

Holder Says It’s ‘Long Past Time’ for D.C. Voting Rights

D.C. Statehood Hearing Explores Other Options

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 8, 2014

Krepp Campaign Tired of ‘Being Blown Off’ by Norton

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Krepp is challenging Norton to a public debate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

Congressional hopeful Tim Krepp has repeatedly called on Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to participate in a debate before Election Day, so  far, to no avail.

The tour guide and historian, running as an independent, faces a steep uphill battle to unseat the 12-term congresswoman who won her seat in 2012 with 88.5 percent of the vote. Despite the challenge, Krepp hopes his message that it’s time for a change will resonate with D.C. voters. And one way to relay that message would be in a public debate.

“I felt like we were just kind of being blown off,” Krepp’s campaign manager Brian Pate told CQ Roll Call in a Tuesday phone interview. “I’ve never been contacted by the scheduler and it’s been almost four weeks. So I feel like we’re rapidly running out of time to have a debate.” Full story

October 7, 2014

GPO First Legislative Agency to Move to the Cloud

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The GPO produces all government documents (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

The U.S. Government Printing Office became the first legislative branch agency to transition to “cloud” technology, announcing Tuesday that the agency’s email system will move to the cloud by January.

“Moving the agency’s email services to the cloud will simplify our IT infrastructure enabling us to use those resources more effectively,” GPO Chief Information Officer Chuck Riddle said in a statement.

Riddle told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview that the GPO has been planning to transition to the cloud for the past year and a half and data security was a key consideration. ”Everything we do we obviously approach it from a security mindset first and foremost,” said Riddle. He noted the cloud was not public, but for government use only. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 3:50 p.m.
GPO

DC Vote Taxi Ads To Be Replaced … for Now

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Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., tries to hail a taxi. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Between paid advertisements and weather updates on cab monitors, D.C. taxi riders have also heard a message about District voting rights. But those videos, which aired over the past seven months, are in the process of being replaced with a public service announcement about D.C. libraries.

Neville Waters, a spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission, said the DC Vote public service announcements discussing District voting rights should have been replaced last month. However, the PSAs are still airing in some cabs as the monitors transition to the new content.

DC Vote is planning to create new videos next year to be used specifically in cabs and they hope the ads will air in taxis again in 2015. Waters said the commission “would certainly consider DC Vote” when evaluating PSAs for the cab monitors.

The most recent DC Vote videos, which first popped up in cabs in March, consisted of two 15-second spots, one featuring civil rights activist Julian Bond and the other featuring DC Vote’s executive director, Kimberly Perry.

“The goal of the PSAs, from our standpoint, was to educate the 20 million visitors that come to our city and ride in a cab every year,” Perry said in a phone interview Monday.

The D.C. Taxicab Commission deemed the videos as “non-commercial in nature” which qualified them as public service announcements, so DC Vote was not charged a fee for airing the clips.

Perry said the ads were also relatively inexpensive for DC Vote to create, thanks to discounted and donated resources. Perry also said the PSAs were very effective in informing visitors, residents and government employees about their cause, citing an increase in DC Vote memberships since the PSAs aired in March.

The PSAs directed viewers to visit the organization’s website and featured Bond and Perry making a similar statement noting, “D.C. families pay federal taxes, our sons and daughters fight and die in wars, but we have no vote in Congress. Isn’t it time we ended this injustice?”

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October 6, 2014

Obama Endorses Muriel Bowser for D.C. Mayor

President Barack Obama on Monday endorsed Muriel Bowser, the Democratic nominee for D.C. mayor.

In a statement released by the Bowser campaign, Obama said, “Muriel knows that every hardworking D.C. resident deserves the opportunity to get ahead. That’s why she has partnered with local small businesses to create jobs and fought to give the children of D.C. a fair shot by investing in our schools.”

Bowser responded to the endorsement with a statement, saying she was honored by the show of support. “If the residents of the District of Columbia elect me to be their next mayor on November 4th, I will emulate the President by bringing people together to find solutions to our toughest challenges,” she said.

The councilmember won the Democratic nomination in April, defeating current Mayor Vincent Gray and she is considered the front-runner in the race. In a recent mailing, the Bowser campaign also touted the endorsement of Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who was also defeated by Bowser in the Democratic primary.

She will face two independent candidates, Councilmember David Catania and former Councilmember Carol Schwartz, in November. Schwartz congratulated Bowser on the endorsement in a statement Monday afternoon, noting, “It’s clearly a good endorsement to have.” Schwartz also directed her response at the president, urging him to promote D.C. autonomy. “And now that the President is more involved in District affairs, I would encourage him to use his good offices to actively help us in our ongoing struggle for greater autonomy and full voting rights,” she said.

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October 3, 2014

House Says Goodbye to Styrofoam

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Staffers have already noticed new food containers in Longworth. (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Food containers in the House became more environmentally friendly last week, as paper containers have started to take the place of their plastic foam counterparts.

Dan Weiser, spokesman for the chief administrative officer, could not say whether the new containers are more expensive because the CAO does not comment on contracts. But, Weiser said, “Food prices are not going to go up.”

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., and ranking member Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., announced the change on Tuesday. They noted the new containers will be phased in “once existing inventories have depleted.” Full story

October 2, 2014

Hindu Leader Condemns D.C. Yoga Tax

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Hindu leader said yoga tax is “a religious infringement.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Calling it a “religious infringement,” Hindu leader Rajan Zed says the Hindu community is against the so-called yoga tax in D.C.

“Yoga was one of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy whose traces went back to around 2000 B.C.E.,” Zed said in a statement released on Oct. 1. He later added, “Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche and regulating it was kind of a religious infringement.”

The wellness tax took effect Wednesday and the D.C. yoga community has raised questions about whether the 5.75 percent sales tax should apply to yoga studios. The tax applies to membership of a health club, defined as a “facility for the purpose of physical exercise.”

Members of the yoga community have argued that the tax should not apply to yoga studios, since the main purpose of yoga is not physical exercise. Zed echoed that argument by stressing that yoga is “a mental and physical discipline by means of which the human-soul (jivatman) united with the universal-soul (parmatman).”

Despite calls to exclude studios, the Office of Tax and Revenue will include yoga studios in the sales tax. Action by the D.C. Council would be necessary to alter the tax regulations, though that does not appear likely. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said yoga studios should be included in the tax and it was never a question whether they would be.

Related:

Yoga Community Argues ‘Yoga Tax’ Does Not Apply to Studios

Wonks Go Into Warrior Pose to Defend D.C. Yoga Tax

Tax Proposal Draws Protest From Capitol Hill Gyms, Yoga Studios

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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Union Finds Decrease in Library of Congress Staff

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Library of Congress has experienced a significant reduction in staff over the past 10 years and faces an even greater reduction as more employees near retirement, according to data gathered by an employee union.

“One of the Library’s greatest resources, which is its staff, has already hemorrhaged,” Library of Congress Professional Guild president Saul Schniderman told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “This isn’t something that’s going to happen. It’s already happened.” The union represents roughly half of the library’s more than 3,000 employees.

In a letter to guild members, Schniderman noted a nearly 50 percent drop in catalog and acquisition librarians and a roughly 25 percent drop in reference services staff over the past 10 years. The data also showed a slight increase in information technology specialists. Full story

October 1, 2014

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

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