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October 1, 2014

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September 17, 2014

Stockman Tweets Photo From the House Floor, Violating Chamber Rules

Rep. Steve Stockman got a little too excited following a floor vote Wednesday and made a move that violates House decorum.

The Texas Republican snapped a photo of Georgia Republican Paul Broun flashing a smile after what Stockman described as a “historic vote to #AuditTheFed” and tweeted it from his official account.

Though cellphones have become commonplace on the House floor, photography is strictly prohibited. A source with knowledge of the House rules confirmed that Stockman’s photo is a violation of the rules. Photo or video documentation of proceedings by members of Congress breaches a clause on “comportment.”

“A person on the floor of the House may not smoke or use a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum,” states part of rule 17, clause 5.

In January 2011, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, gave the OK to electronic tablet devices as long as they are used “unobtrusively.” However, the ban on using devices for still photography, audio or video recording still stands.

Asked about the rules violation, Stockman spokesman Donny Ferguson gave CQ Roll Call a simple explanation.

“I don’t believe he was aware,” Ferguson said in an email. “He was no doubt caught up in the moment.”

It is unclear if the outgoing congressman, who is already the subject of an ethics investigation, will be disciplined.

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Press Galleries Pushing McCarthy for ‘Pen and Pad’ Briefings

mccarthy 080 061114 440x289 Press Galleries Pushing McCarthy for Pen and Pad Briefings

McCarthy has expressed interest in reinstating the briefings. (By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Members of the Capitol Hill press corps are pushing for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to reinstate weekly “pen and pad” briefings to discuss the agenda, a tradition that ended with former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

The chairmen of the Periodical, Daily and Radio-TV press galleries submitted a letter to McCarthy Tuesday evening, urging him to bring back the weekly meetings and set a date for his first briefing in November, when Congress returns.

McCarthy spokesman Mike Long wrote in an email, “We’re reviewing the letter.” He did not know when the leader will respond to the request.

In their letter, Heather Rothman of Bloomberg BNA, Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal, and Frank Thorp V of NBC News pointed out that McCarthy has expressed interest in holding the briefings.

McCarthy told a group of reporters Monday that he is interested in holding pen-and-pad briefings but he has yet to formally respond to the media’s request for the meetings.

“These meetings are crucial to our ability to follow the agenda of the majority party of the House,” they wrote in the letter, which was shared with CQ Roll Call.

The leaders of the press corps also appealed to McCarthy’s own desire for transparency.

“You have listed ‘transparency in government’ as an ideal you strive to achieve,” they wrote, “and we believe interfacing regularly with the Capitol Hill Press Corps is an important step toward this goal.”

Cantor put an end to the weekly briefings in 2011. Since Cantor lost his primary and resigned, the press has been pushing to reinstate the briefings. In addition to the letter sent Tuesday, the chairmen issued a similar letter in July and also met with McCarthy’s staff to discuss the issue in August.

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September 16, 2014

Critics Reject Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial Compromise, Optimistic About Change

Eisenhower001 031913 440x297 Critics Reject Gehrys Eisenhower Memorial Compromise, Optimistic About Change

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, wants a simpler design. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

After 15 years of planning a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the design might move forward without architect Frank Gehry’s name attached to it.

In a Wednesday meeting blocks from Capitol Hill, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission will be presented with two plans for the four-acre site in Southwest Washington slated to become a memorial to the 34th president. There is no guarantee any official action will be taken, but the Eisenhower family, members of Congress and other stakeholders indicate the most recent compromise offered by the Gehry team is not the way forward.

That version includes the 80-foot columns that a member of the National Capital Planning Commission two weeks ago described as reminiscent of the “latter scenes of ‘Planet of the Apes,’” and a stainless steel tapestry featuring scenes from Ike’s pastoral Kansan roots. An alternate version removes the tapestry and columns, and Gehry has indicated that would not be associated with his name. Full story

September 15, 2014

Capitol Hill Employees Concerned About July 10 Asbestos Exposure

asbestos 03 080107 440x292 Capitol Hill Employees Concerned About July 10 Asbestos Exposure

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

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

‘Muslims for Life’ Blood Drive Honors 9/11 Victims

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“Muslims for Life” blood drive in Rayburn House Office Building. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

After the Capitol Hill community observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, volunteers went to work in the Rayburn House Office building to facilitate the annual “Muslims for Life” blood drive in the Capitol.

The “Muslims for Life” campaign is coordinated by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a movement within Islam. The campaign began in 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, as an effort to honor those who lost their lives and serve as a reminder that Islam promotes peace.

“In a time where those of us who are of the Islamic faith have to apologize for many acts of murderers, you all are here offering the best of what our community has to offer — truly affecting what we’re all about, which is saving human life,” Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, said at the blood drive Thursday morning.

The Minnesota Democrat was one of a handful of members of Congress expected at the blood drive throughout the day. He addressed the volunteers along with Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., who said he hoped to signify that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has bipartisan support.

photo 11 240x179 Muslims for Life Blood Drive Honors 9/11 Victims

Petri (left) and Ellison (center) talk with Naseem Mahdi, an Ahmadiyya Muslim Communtiy national vice president. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

“I’m trying to support the good works of the Ahmadiyya community,” Petri said. “They’ve been good citizens in my part of Wisconsin.”

This year, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., co-chair of the congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus, helped organize the event. The Ahmadiyya community members stressed that lawmakers welcomed their effort to bring the campaign to Capitol Hill.

“Nobody has ever questioned, then, why I am going to a blood drive which is organized by the Muslims,” Naseem Mahdi, an Ahmadiyaa national vice president told CQ Roll Call. “There was not an issue, you know. Not only here in the Capitol, anywhere in the United States.”

Although the event involved reflection on the 9/11 tragedy, the news that the U.S. will engage in a military action against an Islamic terrorist group also weighed heavily on the minds of the attendees.

In his address at the event, Mahdi pivoted his remarks to ISIS, stressing once again that the Muslim community rejects the acts of violence.

“We condemn this kind of violence. I am telling you, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community rejects this kind of crime and massacres,” Mahdi said. He later referred to ISIS, adding, “This is not Islam. This is a barbaric plan which will never succeed by God’s help.”

Congress continues to debate the strategy to confront ISIS, but Thursday, as flags flew at half-staff, the Capitol Hill community also remembered the lives lost 13 years ago.

The “Muslims for Life” campaign began with that goal of honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks and works to save others, since one pint of blood can help save up to three lives.

Since its inception in 2011, the campaign has resulted in 906 drives that collected more than 33,000 pints of blood. The goal for this year’s campaign is to collect 13,000 pints, potentially saving an additional 39,000 lives.

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By Bridget Bowman Posted at 12:07 p.m.

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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September 10, 2014

Capitol Hill Club Clothing Drive Benefits Veterans

As the debate over military action against ISIS captivated Capitol Hill Wednesday, staffers and lawmakers gathered to help veterans from our most recent wars in their transition to civilian life.

The National Republican Club of Capitol Hill held its second annual clothing drive Wednesday morning and this year the professional attire will be donated to veterans.

“We have thousands of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan that are now looking to get into the workforce,” said Capitol Hill Club General Manager Stan Lawson. “And they’re in need of professional attire.” Full story

August 25, 2014

Christmas in August? Boehner Planning for Capitol Tree

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The 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree arrived in November from Washington state. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

A 65-foot spruce or balsam fir growing somewhere along Minnesota’s Paul Bunyan Trail will stand on the West Front Lawn this winter.

The North Star State’s Chippewa National Forest will provide the Capitol Christmas Tree this year, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Monday.

This year marks the second time the forest has provided the prominent evergreen. In 1992, Chippewa National Forest and Leech Lake Reservation sent a 60-foot white spruce to Washington, D.C., along with thousands of ornaments made by local school children. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:22 p.m.
AOC, Campus

August 22, 2014

Lights May Go Out on Capitol Dome Friday Night

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The Dome may go dark tonight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Don’t be alarmed if the lights flicker outside the Capitol Dome Friday night. The enduring beacon of freedom isn’t dead — it’s undergoing regular maintenance.

The Architect of the Capitol is cautioning that brief power outages may occur as the agency performs planned maintenance to the electrical systems in the building. AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci assured CQ Roll Call the work is not related to the Dome restoration project, which has picked up pace during the August recess.

AOC electricians are responsible for thousands of miles of wiring and more than 100,000 light fixtures across Capitol Hill, according to the agency. Because many of the historic buildings on campus, including the Capitol, were built before electricity, they require continuous modernization and upgrades.

Full story

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