Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 16, 2014

Posts by Hannah Hess

228 Posts

September 16, 2014

Navy Yard Memorial Event Marks Anniversary of Tragedy

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U.S. Navy Captain Michael Graham calls to let people know he is OK after he escaped building 197 following the Sept. 16, 2013, Navy Yard shooting. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On the one-year anniversary of the tragic Navy Yard shooting in Southeast Washington, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, is inviting the Capitol Hill community and others to an evening ceremony honoring victims and survivors.

Among the 12 people gunned down by Aaron Alexis were three constituents from the Maryland Democrat’s district. All will be honored, along with the first responders and law enforcement involved in the response, during the 6 p.m. public ceremony at Canal Park, 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, a green space near the Navy Yard gates.

“With so many Fifth District residents who serve in military and civilian roles at the Navy Yard — or know someone who does — many of us continue to keep our thoughts and prayers with the victims, survivors, and families of all of those affected,” Hoyer said in a statement.

In the immediate wake of the shooting, the congressman said he expected the event to renew discussion of gun control in Congress but was skeptical any action would be taken.

Twelve months later, lawmakers with oversight responsibilities in the Senate and House have probed into the security clearance background screening process that failed to identify Alexis as a potential threat. An independent panel appointed by the Department of Defense and a White House report have also delved into security clearance procedures.

President Barack Obama memorialized the rampage in a Tuesday statement and said the nation has continued to “improve security at our country’s bases and installations to protect our military and civilian personnel who help keep us safe.”

“One year ago, 12 Americans went to work to protect and strengthen the country they loved,” Obama stated. “Today, we must do the same — rejecting atrocities like these as the new normal and renewing our call for common-sense reforms that respect our traditions while reducing the gun violence that shatters too many American families every day.”

Navy Yard employees, some of the Navy’s top brass and Mayor Vincent Gray will also be in attendance for the Tuesday evening ceremony, organized by the group Near Southeast Community Partners.

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September 15, 2014

House Ethics Committee Probing Paul Broun

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Paul Broun, the Georgia Republican who lost a Senate primary in May, is being investigated for alleged ethics violations.

The House Ethics Committee revealed Monday that it is reviewing the alleged misconduct, without disclosing the reason for the probe. Next steps for the case involving the departing, three-term congressman will be announced on or before Oct. 29.

“The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” the statement reads. Full story

D.C. Statehood Hearing Explores Other Options

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Carper, left, chaired Monday’s hearing on D.C. statehood options. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Washington, D.C. residents crowded into a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Monday to witness the first hearing on D.C. statehood in two decades, though enacting statehood in the 113th Congress is not likely anytime soon.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, facilitated the hearing, fulfilling a promise that the Senate would consider D.C. statehood in the fall.

But at the end of the hearing, Carper searched for viable solutions other than statehood, asking the second round of panelists, “What should we be able to agree to?” Full story

Capitol Hill Employees Concerned About July 10 Asbestos Exposure

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Asbestos was also a concern in 2007, as shown by Scott Smith, U.S. Capitol Power Plant worker, during a House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on “Capitol Power Plant Utility Tunnels.” (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The asbestos emergency that temporarily closed the House side of the Capitol was a scary ordeal for Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police employees working the overnight shift.

Union officials representing workers at both agencies told CQ Roll Call they are concerned about potential exposure to the human carcinogen, which can cause chronic lung disease as well as cancer. The Office of Compliance, an agency created by Congress to ensure safety in the legislative branch workplace, has been asked to inspect the incident for an alleged violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Asbestos fibers and other debris were released into the air around 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m., when AOC contractors removing insulation containing asbestos from pipes and valves on the Capitol’s fourth floor had an accident above the East Grand Staircase. Most of Capitol Hill learned about the incident hours later, when doors to the House side of the Capitol were closed as engineers and certified industrial hygienists evaluated the scene. Full story

Beth Plemmons, the Capitol Visitor Center’s Guide to Southern Hospitality

plemmons001 081914 440x297 Beth Plemmons, the Capitol Visitor Centers Guide to Southern Hospitality

Plemmons is CEO for Visitor Services at the Capitol Visitor Center. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

North Carolina native Beth Plemmons, CEO of visitor services at the Capitol Visitor Center, is a pro at Southern hospitality.

She spent 17 years working in reservations and ticketing positions at the grandiose 19th century Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., then transitioned to guest services at Virginia’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The Virginia Tech alumna, who studied hotel, restaurant and institutional management, joined the leadership team of the CVC just a few months before the 580,000-foot complex’s Dec. 2, 2008, grand opening.

Touring the CVC with CQ Roll Call this August, Plemmons showed off her favorite item in the Exhibition Hall collection: a marble gavel and wooden triangle that Mount Vernon resident George Washington used to lay the Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793. She stopped just short of calling the Capitol grounds an estate at one point, explaining, “This is the first time I’ve ever not worked as part of an estate.”

Plemmons accepted her first federal government post “on the heels of some controversy,” she said during a wide-ranging interview about her six-year tenure. She took a job as director of visitor services after years of negative press about construction delays and the $621-million structure’s ever-increasing price tag. While such issues are in the rearview mirror, other contentious ones have bubbled up in the intervening years, particularly surrounding the relationship between managers and the front-line employees at the CVC — its tour guides.  Full story

September 12, 2014

Cynics Be Damned: Krepp Endorses Norton … on Statehood Efforts

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Krepp is backing Norton on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

Ruthless campaigner Tim Krepp emailed supporters on Friday afternoon to say he wholeheartedly supports Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and they should, too. Krepp hopes to defeat the congresswoman, who is running for her 13th term representing the District, in the November election, but he wants everyone to rally behind her on Monday. Norton will testify to a Senate panel on a cause near and dear to most Washingtonians: D.C. statehood.

“Heck, I’ll even link to her website,” the tour guide, author and former naval intelligence officer wrote in his email.

Krepp also gave considerable praise to citizen activist Josh Burch, and his group, Neighbors United for DC Statehood.

Burch mobilized much of the support on Capitol Hill, pestering staffers for meetings, and status updates on the hearing promised in June 2013 by  the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del. The Brookland resident, who squeezes in time for lobbying around his full-time job for the D.C. government, has not been invited to testify.

Krepp is counting on Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to make a solid case for why a 51st star should be added to the flag. Scholars on both sides of the issue will also be weighing in. An expanded witness list released Friday by the committee includes shadow Sens. Michael D. Brown and Paul Strauss, two men who effectively serve as pro bono statehood lobbyists to the Senate.

The “New Columbia Admission Act” would give D.C. voting representation in both chambers.

During a Friday appearance with WAMU’s Kojo Nmandi, Burch acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled House, but said the hearing would be key to getting members of Congress “on the record” about their positions.

“We need to know who are friends are publicly, and we need to know who our detractors are publicly,” Burch said, “because right now, without a vote on anything, everyone can just sort of hide behind the, ‘Oh, my boss hasn’t made a decision on this legislation.’ We need to know where public officials stand on this.”

Activists hope to pack the Dirksen committee room with statehood supporters. They encourage attendees to wear red to support the cause.

Krepp is dismissing cynicism, claiming it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to assume statehood will never happen.

“If we declare victory after Monday’s hearing and go home, we’re going to be right back here in 2034 celebrating the first hearing in twenty years all over again,” he wrote. “We need to keep this momentum going and not let it drift away like we’ve done before. The key is sustained effort and civic involvement.”

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September 11, 2014

Staffers, Diplomats Call for Capitol Hill to Act on Ebola Crisis

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Omar Chinmoun of the Cameroon Embassy attends an event at the Senate Swamp where moments of silence were observed in remembrance of 9/11 and victims of Ebola in Africa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Hill observed a campus-wide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. Thursday to honor those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Six hours later, a group of 25 that included diplomats from Liberia, Cameroon and staffers from the Congressional African Staff Association gathered on the East Front to bow their heads for two moments of silence. One was observed for the victims of the attacks 13 years ago; the second was for victims of the Ebola epidemic.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black and Bishop Darlingston Johnson, chairman of the African Immigrant Caucus, led the group in prayer for healing, intervention and a strengthened global response. Black asked for wisdom for the health care experts “who seek to turn tragedy into triumph,” and relief for the more than 4,200 people that the World Health Organization estimates have been infected in the epidemic.

“I’m originally from Liberia, so it touches me very personally,” Johnson told CQ Roll Call. The church he pastors there has lost 13 people, two pastors and a pastor’s wife to the disease. “It’s very important to us that whatever resources are available be mobilized to fight this thing quickly.”

Omar Arouna, Benin’s ambassador to the United States, said his small West African nation is especially worried about the crisis in neighboring Nigeria. Benin is a “transitive country,” he explained in an interview, so it is important the international response is focused on stopping the spread of the disease.

Despite the heat of the day, many participants slipped on white T-shirts over their business suits that were passed out by organizers from Believe in Africa in hopes of drawing attention to the cause.

“There has got to be a unified response to this challenge that knows no boundaries and is moving so quickly,” said Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations for Amnesty International.

Congress has begun to take action.

A panel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on combating the threat on Aug. 7.

On Sept. 16, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hear from Kent Brantly, the doctor who contracted Ebola while doing missionary work in Liberia, along with officials from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention and the National Institutes of Health during a joint hearing.

In the continuing resolution introduced on Tuesday, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., included $88 million that was requested by the White House to bring drugs and personnel into West African countries.

“We’re hoping that whatever we do here can help push the process forward a little more quickly,” Johnson said, “move from just talking about it to some action.”

 

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By Hannah Hess Posted at 4:45 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

Ethics Won’t Investigate Gwen Moore’s Arrest

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Ethics Committee will not investigate Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., following her Sept. 4 arrest while protesting with fast food workers outside a McDonald’s in her home state.

On Thursday, the committee published a routine report on the congresswoman’s arrest, and the disorderly conduct citation issued in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The panel said the matter is expected to be resolved with the payment of a fine, pending a non-mandatory court appearance on Nov. 18.

“The Committee voted against empanelling an investigative subcommittee in this matter,” the report states. “The Committee considered the scope and nature of the conduct described above and determined that review by an investigative subcommittee is not required in this matter.”

The protest was part of the national “Fight for 15” campaign staged in more than 150 cities across the country. Workers are fighting to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Moore’s citation will cost the five-term congresswoman $691.

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Police Investigate Molotov Cocktail Attack on Cleaver’s Kansas City Office

cleaver 12 072011 440x292 Police Investigate Molotov Cocktail Attack on Cleavers Kansas City Office

Cleaver’s office in Kansas City was the target of an attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

Kansas City Police responding early Thursday morning to an alarm at the district office of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., found two bottles resembling Molotov cocktails.

The Kansas City Star reports that an alarm sounded around 2:50 a.m. after a window was broken on the northwest side of the building. On the ground below the window, police found two broken bottles with paper towels sticking out of the necks of the bottle, and detected an odor similar to lighter fluid.

“This is the second incident within the last six years,” John Jones, Cleaver’s chief of staff, said in a statement issued Thursday. Jones said none of the staff was in the building, and the office is awaiting a police report. “We have been in constant contact with the staff, and we thank the Kansas City Police, as well as the Kansas City Bomb and Arson Squad for their quick response and thorough work. All of the Congressman’s offices will be open for regular business.”

The Congressional Black Caucus condemned the attack.

“This type of abhorrent behavior is the most ineffective means of voicing discontent or disagreement,” stated CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio. “I expect a speedy, full, and thorough investigation into this incident by law enforcement, so that those responsible are swiftly apprehended and prosecuted. The person or persons responsible for what happened this morning must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

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Homeless Man Arrested for Wreaking Havoc on Lower Senate Park

Water2 053002 440x276 Homeless Man Arrested for Wreaking Havoc on Lower Senate Park

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Police arrested a homeless man Monday afternoon in Lower Senate Park who seemed bent on destroying the serene scenery.

After witnessing the man kicking over trash cans and pulling sprinkler heads out of the ground, a bystander called police.

When officers arrived, the witness identified Micah Chinedu Irika, 39, as the vandal. Irika was placed under arrest at 2:37 p.m., according to a police report. He faces felony charges for destroying up to $1,000 in Architect of the Capitol property.

According to D.C. Superior Court documents, Irika also faces charges in a separate case for an alleged assault on a police officer and two counts of simple assault.

 

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