Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 28, 2014

Posts by Bridget Bowman

69 Posts

November 26, 2014

Report Outlines Constituent Meeting Do’s and Don’ts

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Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., talks with a constituent in between events in Baltimore. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Constituent participation is the key to scheduling meetings on Capitol Hill, according to a new report from the Congressional Management Foundation.

“Our number one factor in scheduling a meeting is if a constituent is in the group,” one House scheduler wrote in an anonymous survey by CMF. “Constituents from our district take top priority over any other type of request.”

The CMF’s 15-page report, released Nov. 20 and titled “Face to Face with Congress: Before, During, and After Meetings With Legislators,” is based on nearly 450 responses from legislative staff surveys conducted between 2010 and 2013. It details advice for scheduling, conducting, and following up after meetings with congressional staff. Full story

Congressional Future Caucus Promotes ‘Giving Tuesday’

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Lawmakers want to designate Dec. 2 as “Giving Tuesday,” a national day of giving and volunteerism. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After shoppers hunt for the best deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some members of Congress are hoping Americans will pull out their wallets and roll up their sleeves for “Giving Tuesday.”

“This is something that should inspire that desire to be of service,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said in a phone interview on Nov. 24. “We look at Congress, we look at the partisanship, the partisan divide that’s there. This is something that Democrats and Republicans can work together on in a way that benefits everyone.”

On Nov. 20, Gabbard introduced a resolution to designate Dec. 2 as “Giving Tuesday, ” a national day of giving and volunteerism. The Hawaii Democrat introduced the bill along with her Congressional Future Caucus co-chairman, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. Reps. Juan C. Vargas, D-Calif., Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill, co-sponsored the resolution. Full story

November 25, 2014

D.C. Statehood Activists Looking Toward GOP Congress

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Activists say local controversies, such as the case against Gray, can’t thwart cause. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If anyone understands what a “grungy game” politics can be, it’s Capitol Hill staffers.

That’s what Johnny Barnes, an attorney who spent 25 years working for members of the House, theorized when the front page of the Washington Post recently announced that federal prosecutors might be moving closer to indicting Mayor Vincent Gray. Barnes huddled on Nov. 18 with about a dozen D.C. residents in the lobby of the Hart Senate Office Building, preparing to pitch staffers on why the District deserves to be the 51st state.

“These folks,” Barnes said, “are less sensitive or less focused on that kind of thing, because they know what politics is about.” He chuckled during the interview, recalling his interactions with colorful Ohio Democrat James Traficant, who was booted from the House for corruption. “It’s a grungy game, and they know that.” Full story

November 24, 2014

Two Veteran Capitol Hill Staffers Honored for Leadership

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Hawkings, left, and Evans, right, were honored last week. Pomerantz, center, won the award in 2012. (Photo courtesy of the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership)

Two veteran Hill Staffers have been recognized for their commitment to public service and their leadership at a reception last week in the Capitol Building.

Bruce Evans, chief of staff for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Betsy Wright Hawkings, chief of staff for Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., received the William E. “Eph” Cresswell Congressional Staff Leadership Award from the Stennis Center for Public Service on Nov. 19. (Hawkings is married to Roll Call Senior Editor, David Hawkings.)

To be nominated for the award, which is given out once per Congress, a Hill staffer must have served at least 10 years in Congress, display effective leadership skills and work across the aisle. A member of Congress or a Senior John C. Stennis Congressional Staff Fellow can nominate a staffer, and the winners are selected by a committee of Stennis fellows.

David Pomerantz, the House Appropriations Committee’s Democratic staff director, received the first Cresswell award in 2012. The award’s namesake served as the chief of staff for the late Sen. John C. Stennis, D-Miss., and was a former chairman of the Stennis Center Board of Trustees. According to its website, the Stennis Center for Public Service is a legislative branch agency established in 1988 “to promote and strengthen publish service leadership in America.”

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Millennium Challenge Corporation Celebrates 10th Anniversary

While bipartisan efforts in Congress can seem few and far between, policymakers from across the ideological spectrum point to the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Challenge Corporation as evidence they can find common ground when addressing global development.

“It’s one of the few places, frankly, left in Washington where that spirited bipartisanship continues to exist and drive forward,” White House counselor John Podesta said at a Nov. 18 event celebrating the organization’s 10 years.

At the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, more than 400 people gathered to honor the MCC, which was created by an act of Congress in 2004. The crowd included lawmakers, diplomats, and members of President Barack Obama’s administration, the global development community and the private sector. Full story

November 23, 2014

Marion Barry, 4-Term Mayor and D.C. Councilmember, Dies at 78

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A “Thank You” card to Marion Barry sits on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building, DC’s City Hall, on Nov. 23. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former D.C. Mayor and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry died Sunday at the age of 78.

Barry’s family did not indicate the cause of his death in a statement released Sunday morning, but said Barry passed away at United Medical Center early Sunday after having previously been hospitalized at Howard University Hospital on Saturday.

“Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.” Full story

November 21, 2014

D.C. Health Care Enrollment Site Down Until Saturday Night

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DC Health Link is currently down (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers looking to enroll in the health care exchanges this weekend will have to wait until Saturday night, as the website administering enrollment is down for maintenance. The enrollment period for congressional employees began on Nov. 10 and ends on Dec. 8.

“During this outage, important maintenance work is taking place that will resolve a variety of different issues employees have been seeing,” read a message sent to Senate staffers Friday morning, which also noted the website, also known as DC Health Link, was unavailable beginning Thursday evening. A DC Health Link spokesman said the maintenance would be complete by 8 p.m. Saturday.

The spokesman said the website was unavailable due to a data update. Before individuals can renew their health care coverage, the Affordable Care Act requires the data to be refreshed to verify that the individuals are still eligible for their plans.

“The data refresh requires the on-line portal to be unavailable for a brief period of time,” the spokesman wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “The maintenance period of the on-line portal also impacts the small business marketplace customer accounts including small businesses and congressional employees.”

DC Health Link is also in the process of correcting information for employee accounts.

“Although enrollment is correct, we identified a set of employee accounts that did not reflect correct information because of multiple old applications,” wrote the spokesman. “We have already successfully resolved some accounts; today’s update is expected to correct the remaining accounts.”

For Hill staffers, the notice that the website was down may have brought on some unwelcome déjà vu. Glitches with DC Health Link during the first enrollment process last year caused headaches on Capitol Hill and resulted in an extension for the enrollment deadline.

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect last year, congressional health care has been a target for those aiming to dismantle the president’s signature legislation. In, October, the conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit challenging Congress’ small business status in enrollment. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is also in an ongoing legal battle arguing that lawmakers and Hill staffers should not be granted employer contributions.

Niels Lesniewski contribute to this report.

Related:

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

House Staff Members Are Signing Up for Obamacare, Figures Show

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Ron Johnson Open to Hearing on Marijuana Legalization

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., likely the next chairman of the Senate committee with oversight over Washington, D.C., said Thursday that he would like to hold a hearing on marijuana legalization.

When asked about his view of marijuana legalization in D.C., Johnson told a group of reporters, “What we can do is we can hold hearings to find out how it’s all working, to highlight the issues, highlight the problem, try and define the problems. So I think that’s what we should really do.”

Johnson, who will likely be the next chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said such a hearing would focus on how legalization in other states has unfolded. Full story

November 19, 2014

New Members of Congress Flip for Office Selection (Slideshow)

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

On the final day of orientation, new members of Congress, their staff and the media packed into a Rayburn committee hearing room Wednesday to find out their fate for office selection.

In alphabetical order, new members or their designees walked up to the dais, and picked a token with a number from one to 57, selecting which order they would choose their suite for the next two years.

“One thing I feel obligated to let you know is, two years ago when we were conducting the room lottery for members-elect, there was a direct correlation between the number you drew and the demonstration of something that brings luck to you,” said Superintendent of House Office Buildings William M. Weidemeyer.

And some new members certainly took that advice to heart. Full story

Capitol Dome Braces for Next Phase of Restoration

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Sen. John Hoeven discusses the dome restoration project. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With frigid winds whipping around the 288 foot-tall Capitol Dome, Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers said the next phase of the nearly $60 million restoration project has begun.

Ayers told reporters gathered on the roof of the Capitol Tuesday that the scaffolding surrounding the Dome was complete, which he said was “a significant milestone.”

“The purpose of the scaffold is a very practical one,” said Ayers. “With its completion, workers are now able to access the Dome freely and can use the equipment necessary to begin the restoration work in earnest.” And those workers will be spotted on the 25 levels of scaffolding throughout the winter months, according to restoration construction manager Joseph Abriatis. Full story

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