Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 1, 2015

Posts by Bridget Bowman

155 Posts

February 27, 2015

Judge Dismisses Obamacare Lawsuit Targeting Congressional Health Care

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging congressional health care enrollment in the D.C. small business exchange Wednesday, ruling that federal regulations allow members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in the exchange.

In October, the group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of D.C. resident Kirby Vining, alleging that allowing Congress to enroll in the small business exchange violated D.C. law, which stipulates that a small business has 50 or fewer employees. The D.C. government acknowledged Congress is not a small business under D.C. law as part of a motion to the dismiss the case in January. But the D.C. government also argued a 2013 Office of Personnel Management ruling instructing congressional employees to enroll in the exchange trumped D.C. law, and enrollment could continue. Full story

February 25, 2015

D.C. Stands Up to Congress on Marijuana Legalization (Updated)

Updated 5:41 p.m. | As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the District of Columbia will legalize marijuana, despite warnings from two congressional Republicans that doing so would break the law and could lead to possible prison time for D.C. officials.

“Our government is prepared to implement and enforce Initiative 71 in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a briefing Wednesday, where D.C. officials presented a united front against congressional opposition. Bowser was joined by District Attorney General Karl Racine, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and eight members of the D.C. Council, including Chairman Phil Mendelson. Full story

Congress Investigating D.C. Marijuana Legalization

Chaffetz is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Chaffetz is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One day before the District of Columbia is set to legalize marijuana, members of Congress are launching an investigation into D.C.’s decision to do so, and warning that implementing legalization would break the law.

“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., wrote in a letter sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser early Wednesday morning.

Full story

February 21, 2015

Court Gives Bowser Budget Autonomy Deadline

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser has until March 16 to make a decision. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has paused an ongoing case over budget autonomy, giving Mayor Muriel Bowser until March 16 to solidify her position in the case, public court documents filed Friday show.

The decision comes after Bowser filed a motion for abeyance on Feb. 13, asking the court to suspend the case she inherited from her predecessor, Vincent C. Gray, which pitted the mayor’s office against the D.C. Council. In the order filed Friday, the circuit judges granted Bowser’s motion, giving her 30 days to review her position.

Full story

February 20, 2015

Vitter Extends Deadline for Obamacare Documents From D.C., House, Senate

Vitter is continuing to demand answers about congressional health care enrollment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vitter is demanding answers about congressional health care enrollment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter is continuing his investigation into congressional health care enrollment, and he was not satisfied with recent responses from the D.C. government and House and Senate officials.

The Louisiana Republican issued a statement Thursday to announce he’s giving the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, the House Clerk and the Senate financial clerk until Feb. 24 to answer questions and provide documents regarding health care enrollment. He wants to know why members of Congress and their staffs were allowed to enroll in the D.C. small-business exchange, despite the fact Congress does not fit the definition of a small business. The original deadline was Feb. 13, but the responses to Vitter’s investigation were unsatisfactory, so he has extended the deadline.

“My investigation is centered on determining how Congress was designated as a small business in order to exempt its roughly 16,000 employees, including Members, from clear requirements under Obamacare,” Vitter said in a statement. “Yet the key players involved appear unwilling to comply with a straightforward congressional request.”

In a letter sent last week to the three agencies, Vitter requested the DCHBE meet with him to discuss enrollment; that House and Senate offices disclose who directed officials to “falsify” exchange applications; that electronic copies of the applications be provided without redactions and that Congress and the District only allow small businesses to participate in the exchange.

Vitter’s request came after documents, made public as part of a lawsuit the watchdog group Judicial Watch filed against DCHBE in October, revealed the House and Senate applications claimed the institutions had 45 employees and classified them as “state/local government.” The electronic signatures, showing which congressional employees certified the applications were valid, were redacted.

DCBHE Executive Director Mila Kofman, who is a defendant in the Judicial Watch case, wrote in a letter to Vitter last week, saying she could not provide documents or information due to the ongoing lawsuit. She also wrote, “Providing enrollment applications for any of our customers would be considered a breach of trust.”

Ileana Garcia, the financial clerk of the Senate, wrote in a letter to Vitter that the Senate Disbursing Office provided data to D.C. Health Link in order to conform with the technological system that could not be altered.

“Administrative offices were instructed to use DC Health Link and understood that, due to compressed implementation time frame, system modifications to the DC Health Link system were not an option,” Garcia wrote. “As a result, it was necessary to provide data that was compatible for system processing to establish the required employer account in a timely manner.”

“[D]espite technical challenges, to the best of the Disbursing Office’s knowledge, this office, at no time in the process, provided any part misleading information,” she later added.

Vitter also demanded answers from the House Clerk, but House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy declined to provide information, arguing that Vitter’s role as Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee chairman does not give him jurisdiction over House offices. Cassidy noted that his response would likely be similar to the Senate Disbursing Office’s response to Vitter’s requests.

But Vitter was not satisfied by any of these letters. And if he does not get a satisfactory response from the agencies by next week, will there be a discussion about issuing subpoenas? “We’ll reassess after the deadline next week,” Small Business Committee spokeswoman Cheyenne Klotz said.

The investigation is a continuation of Vitter’s longstanding crusade against what he deems the “Washington Obamacare exemption,” or the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 ruling that allowed congressional employees to keep the government contribution to their health care. On Feb. 13, Vitter sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, explaining he is placing a procedural hold on the deputy director’s nomination until he receives answers about the decisions to continue the contribution and allow Congress to enroll in the small business exchange.

Related: 

Vitter Requests Obamacare Documents From D.C., House and Senate

D.C. Government: OPM Trumps Local Law on Congressional Health Care

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

GOP: Staffers Should Use Obamacare

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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February 19, 2015

Shadow Senator Visits Iowa, Leaves Trip Open to Speculation

Strauss took the D.C. statehood effort to Des Moines, Iowa. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Strauss took the D.C. statehood effort to Des Moines, Iowa. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When senators head to Iowa, speculation about presidential aspirations heats up — a fact one shadow senator who traveled to Des Moines over the weekend kept in mind.

Paul Strauss, one of the District of Columbia’s shadow senators (elected representatives who advocate for D.C. statehood), noted that politicians’ trips to the Hawkeye State often raise questions about a “broader agenda.”

“Our goal was to focus on the issue of D.C. statehood,” Strauss told CQ Roll Call. “And we’re considering all kinds of ways to make D.C. statehood a part of the national campaign.”

Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 12:09 p.m.
DC Statehood

Staffers Get to Know ‘the Real Washington’

Norton at the 2014 "Ask Me About D.C. Event." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Norton at the 2014 “Ask Me About D.C.” event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hundreds of staffers crowded into the Cannon caucus room Wednesday afternoon to learn about what the District of Columbia has to offer outside of Capitol Hill — and to fill their “D.C. Stuff” bags with some capital swag.

Staffers perused the 72 tables advertising local restaurants, hotels, attractions and services as part of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s annual “Ask Me About D.C.” event.

“What I’m hoping they take away from this event is information to give their constituents beyond official Washington, to what we call the ‘real Washington,’ the Washington that has 650,000 people, the Washington beyond the Mall,” the Democrat told CQ Roll Call at the event. “We think that’s the part of Washington that their constituents need to get to know.”

Full story

February 18, 2015

Fate of D.C. Budget Autonomy Case Uncertain

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The ongoing case over a law granting the District of Columbia control over its local budget could be stalled as the mayor solidifies her position, raising questions about the future of the case.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in conjunction with Attorney General Karl A. Racine, the District’s first elected attorney general, filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 13 asking that the case pitting the mayor’s office against the D.C. Council be paused for 30 days so the mayor could review her position. Judges have yet to rule on the motion. Full story

February 12, 2015

Bowser Talks Metro and Marijuana on Capitol Hill

Bowser met with members of Congress Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser met with members of Congress Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two weeks after meeting with Speaker John A. Boehner, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser was back on Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with Democratic leaders and others to discuss D.C. issues, including Metro funding, marijuana legalization and autonomy.

Bowser told CQ Roll Call after her discussion with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that the meetings were part of an ongoing effort to foster relationships on Capitol Hill. She also met with Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn, D-S.C. and the leaders of the Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over D.C. “Our focus has been on creating new relationships between the mayor and members of the Congress,” Bowser said. “And so I just wanted to let Leader Pelosi know that our door is open.” Full story

Senate Committee Cuts a Reversal of Trend

Sen. Roy Blunt heads the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Sen. Roy Blunt heads the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

As the House Administration Committee deliberated committee funding over the past week, its counterpart across the Dome, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee adopted its funding resolution in a two-minute markup Thursday morning.

The resolution allocates more than $198 million from March 1, 2015, to Feb. 28, 2017, to the Senate committees. The figure is a slight decrease from committee funding for the 113th Congress, which amounted $201 million. The Rules Committee quickly dispensed with the duty of committee funding, with Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., noting the process was completed earlier than usual due to strong staff work. But the Senate did receive some criticism from the other chamber for a lack of cuts over the past few years. Full story

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