Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2014

Posts in "Campus"

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

August 18, 2014

In Wake of Recent Arrests, Security Tightens at House Garages

garage081814 440x292 In Wake of Recent Arrests, Security Tightens at House Garages

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Law enforcement officials on Capitol Hill are making it harder for people without congressional identification badges to avoid security checks in the wake of recent arrests for carrying handguns.

On Monday morning, Capitol Police began enforcing a new ID check policy at the House garages. When a car pulls up, officers check for the requisite parking stickers and ask every passenger to show credentials. Any passenger over the age of 18 who is without a congressional ID is required to exit the vehicle prior to its entry into the garage.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving announced the change late on Aug. 15 in a memo to members of Congress and staff that was obtained by CQ Roll Call. According to the notice, passengers without ID will be directed to a pedestrian entrance. At those doors, they would be required to empty their pockets and submit to a search involving X-ray machines and magnetometers.

The change is an effort to “tighten security” at the House garages, according to a high-ranking security official who spoke on background about the changes. It comes after two incidents that have cast campus security in a new light.

During a search one month ago, Capitol Police found a 9 mm handgun in the bag of Ryan Shucard, press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. Police arrested Shucard, stopping him from bringing the weapon into the Cannon House Office building.

Five days later, Capitol Police arrested South Carolina pork executive Ronald Prestage at another Cannon door after finding a loaded 9 mm handgun inside an ankle holster in his briefcase.

Full story

Folger Shakespeare Library Staff Mourns Death of Cataloger

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Co-workers pay tribute to Seiler, 36, who was killed in a traffic crash last week. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Next to the guest log at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Monday sat a manilla folder containing a sympathy card for the family of an employee killed on Aug. 15 in a tragic traffic crash.

Nadia Sophie Seiler, a 36-year-old Wheaton, Md., resident who worked as a rare materials cataloger at the library just east of the Capitol, died at a local hospital from injuries sustained when her gray Honda scooter collided with a flatbed truck on Connecticut Avenue Northwest. The crash took place at approximately 8:24 a.m. on Aug. 15, as Seiler was on her way to a Society of American Archivists convention at a nearby hotel.

In the basement break room where employees meet each morning to share coffee and small talk, supervisor Erin Blake shared her memories of Seiler. The woman worked as a cataloger at the library — home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare material — reading Renaissance-era handwritten manuscripts for close to seven years.

“Nadia was fascinated by the puzzle of deciphering it, and she picked it up really quickly,” Blake said. She “would find interesting bits of letters and receipt books to read out loud to us. We’d hear her snicker at her desk then people would come over and say, ‘What is it? What did you find?’”

Co-workers draped Seiler’s desk in a blanket and set up a framed photo collage, showing her posing among cherry blossoms and flashing a big smile. Seiler sports floppy white ears as part of a “dust bunny” costume in one photo, snapped during a staff Halloween party. In another, Seiler and her fiancé clutch ice cream cones. Blake said the couple had just picked up a marriage license for the wedding they had planned for Aug. 30.

Seiler had a great eye for the rare findings that would fascinate scholars, Blake said. For instance, she loved sharing ancient recipes uncovered in culinary and medicinal texts. In a post on the library’s blog, Seiler gave readers a window into 17th century breast cancer treatments involving unusual ingredients.

“As unappealing as woodlouse beer and goose dung or pig fat ointments might seem to a modern audience, these were not uncommon ingredients and provided women of the period with an alternative to surgery, which was an aggressive and painful form of treatment,” Seiler wrote.

Blake said Seiler was a “natural cataloger,” with a background in art history and English. She was a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota, and held a master’s degree in archives and records management from the University of Michigan, according to online records.

“It’s a small organization here and we’re all very close,” Blake said, explaining the morning coffee ritual that brought all the employees together in the break room. “It really is like family.”

On Monday, they planned a slide show tribute to Seiler. The library has not yet released a formal statement on her death, out of respect for her family. Plans for a memorial and funeral service have not been announced.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department are still investigating the accident.

August 14, 2014

Capitol Hill Gets First Openly Transgender Staffer of 113th Congress

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New hire pushes gay-rights agenda on the Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Hill is getting its sole transgender staff member, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute announced Thursday.

Connecticut native Ben Panico, who last year interned in the office of Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., through the institute, has been appointed as a fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. He will spend a year helping the caucus, founded in 2008, pursue an ambitious gay-rights agenda in a Congress with a record number of openly gay lawmakers. He is the first openly transgender person to hold the position.

“I first started my work at Victory as a Congressional Intern and have now risen through Victory’s programing to a Congressional Fellow,” Panico said in a statement released by the organization, which has brought more than 20 college leaders to the District since launching its internship program in 2011. The fellowship program launched in 2013.

Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 1:44 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

August 13, 2014

Hill Staffers Learn to Save Lives to the Tune of ‘Stayin’ Alive’

traverso 342x330 Hill Staffers Learn to Save Lives to the Tune of Stayin Alive

Traverso, left, led Capitol Hill staffers through a brief, “hands-only” CPR training. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Striking a falsetto register, Steve Traverso belted out the chorus of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” on Wednesday morning in a tiny first-floor Rayburn reception room.

“Push to the beat,” Traverso instructed the 30 or so Capitol Hill staffers crouched over inflatable dummies on the ornate red carpeting. They pumped their palms into the plastic torsos, listening for the slight “click” that would indicate they were pushing hard enough to save a life.

Traverso, the community CPR manager at the American Heart Association, gave the staffers a 15-minute “hands-only” lesson on what to do when faced with a cardiac emergency. By the end of the brief session, sponsored by AHA and Anthem, Traverso aimed to make the staffers feel confident to perform the life-saving technique without any hesitation. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:36 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

August 12, 2014

Portraits of Committee Chairmen: They’re Up the Wall

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Mica in front of his portrait in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee room. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A House chairman usually ends up hanging around the committee room years after he or she retires.

No, the former chairman is not roaming the room per se, clinging to the halcyon days of wielding the gavel. Rather, it is the lawmaker’s image that will watch over the committee in the time-honored tradition of committee chairman portraits.

“You’re going to provide a legacy for them, a part of their legacy which will hang for hundreds of years,” said Ann Fader, president and CEO of Portrait Consultants, which has been commissioning chairmen portraits for the past 20 years. “It takes a lot of discussion and a lot of preparation” Full story

August 11, 2014

Capitol Dome Restoration Work Picks Up Pace During August Recess

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Workers erect scaffolding around the Capitol Dome on Aug. 4. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

August recess is peak construction season for the nearly $60 million restoration of the Capitol Dome.

Up to now, the majority of the work on the 8.9 million pound cast-iron structure that has topped the Capitol for more than 150 years took place at night and on weekends to ensure minimal disruption to congressional business, events and public tours.

With members of the House and Senate back home in their districts, construction crews have been piecing together the vast scaffolding structure that will encase the 288 foot edifice for approximately two years. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 4:08 p.m.
AOC, Campus

August 8, 2014

‘House of Cards’ Film Crew Hits National Mall on Saturday

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Could more filming be coming to the Capitol grounds? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“House of Cards” is filming around the National Mall on Saturday, according to the D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

It’s unlikely fans of the wildly popular Netflix series will spot stars Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright during the 10-hour set. Crews will be “shooting ‘drive-bys’, b-roll, and a mock-motorcade scene,” says a notice posted on the agency’s site.

Local officials would love to have the show, which shoots most of its scenes in Baltimore and other areas, do more production in the District, but filming in D.C. has its challenges — especially on the Capitol grounds. Full story

August 5, 2014

Capitol Hill Langar Highlights Sikh American Community

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A woman dons a patka head cover during a Sikh langar, a group dinner of vegetarian fare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:19 a.m. | While the week before August recess included some late nights for members of Congress, a few lawmakers and scores of staffers were able to take a break from the final votes to attend the first langar on Capitol Hill.

Langar is a 500-year-old tradition in the Sikh religion that emphasizes equality. Attendees sit on the floor and share the same meal, regardless of socioeconomic and racial divides.

“You hear about a faith, you hear about a set of values, but we want people to actually experience that and experience sitting next to whoever it is next to them, regardless of their background, and sharing a meal,” said Amrita Bamrah, one of the event’s organizers. Full story

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