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September 20, 2014

Posts in "House Admin"

September 3, 2014

Staffers Criticize Security Changes at House Garages

camaro003 050107 440x292 Staffers Criticize Security Changes at House Garages

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Staffers are criticizing a recent change in screening procedures at the House garages as ineffective and inconvenient.

They say the 100 percent congressional identification badge check wouldn’t stop someone from smuggling weapons or other illicit items into House office buildings, leaving that side of the Capitol complex less secure than the Senate or the Library of Congress, where drivers and passengers must pass through magnetometers.

A senior Republican aide told CQ Roll Call that when his non-Hill colleague was instructed to exit the car and walk to a pedestrian entrance, he left his backpack in the vehicle. The staffer parked the car in the Cannon Garage, and carried the backpack inside to his colleague.

“His bag is still not checked,” he noted. “My bags are not checked.”

Leaders of the House Administration Committee, who have oversight over the campus, indicated in late July that law enforcement was working to mitigate the problem at the House garages. Members of the Appropriations subcommittee that sets the budget for Capitol Police and the sergeants-at-arms said they dedicated funds in the fiscal 2014 spending bill to mitigate potential incidents in the garages.

House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., suggested there is a “fine balance” to contend with at the garages. He said it would be “unmanageable” to search every vehicle as it comes into each garage.

The ID check policy was announced in an Aug. 15 memo to members of Congress and staff from House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving. It went into effect the following Monday, Aug. 18.

Staffers and interns for members of Congress are not required to go through a background check to get ID badges. In both the House and the Senate, each congressman or committee chairman sets his or her own pre-hiring requirements and the terms and conditions of employment for the staffers and interns that are granted congressional ID badges.

Once they have vetted prospective staff members to their satisfaction, they request a congressional identification badge be issued to the individual by the Senate or House ID office. The same rules apply for credentialed members of the media galleries who are issued press badges.

 

Related:

In Wake of Recent Arrests, Security Tightens at House Garages

Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

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August 4, 2014

Should D.C. Fine the House for Stocking Cafeterias With Styrofoam?

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Honda hopes D.C.’s ban on the use of Styrofoam puts pressure on the House. (Bill Clark/ CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Plastic foam food containers will be banned from use in the District of Columbia beginning in 2016, but the material still reigns supreme in House cafeterias.

Democrats who chided Republicans for reinstituting Styrofoam when they took control of the House in 2011 want to see the old standard replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did when she was speaker. Pelosi’s “Green the Capitol” initiative included compostable utensils and takeout trays, but it was nixed after financial criticism and was folded into existing sustainability efforts managed by the Architect of the Capitol.

Though the local Styrofoam ban, signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray in late July, is not applicable to the Capitol grounds, some Democrats hope it could reopen the dialogue about how House cafeterias are stocked.

“Maybe they should fine the Hill,” suggested Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., a former legislative branch appropriator who spoke out against the GOP’s choice to begin using the plastic foam packaging again in 2011. He said then that it exposed his staff, colleagues and constituents to known health risks. Full story

June 17, 2014

Woodall, Duckworth Want Congress to Speak Frankly About Franking Mail

rules003 010412 440x295 Woodall, Duckworth Want Congress to Speak Frankly About Franking Mail

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Convinced that most Americans “cuss” the unsolicited fliers that arrive in their mailbox bearing an autograph from their elected official instead of a stamp, Rep. Rob Woodall wants to upend the congressional institution known as franking.

He’s not suggesting eliminating taxpayer-funded mailing privileges for Congress. Instead, the Georgia Republican wants to change the accounting system that, among other things, allows district congressional offices to self-report how much their accounts will be billed for postage.

Sixteen years as a legislative staff member taught Woodall a lot about the day-to-day logistics of the franking system. Since being elected to Congress in 2011, he’s heard an earful during town halls from the constituents who think the frank suggests that once you get to Congress the rules no longer apply — no more purchasing postage, no licking stamps. Full story

Capitol Police Under Scrutiny for Alleged Affair

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rank-and-file Capitol Police officers are suggesting the department needs better oversight after a female officer allegedly having an affair with a male top deputy chief was detailed to a coveted assignment.

To those raising alarm bells, it appears as though the subordinate was transferred to a nice, cushy job to remove her from the deputy chief’s chain of command. For about a month, police with knowledge of the relationship — now under investigation by the Capitol Police inspector general — have been suggesting that the romance between a deputy chief and a subordinate married to a fellow officer violates decorum and could even lead to workplace violence.

“They all carry guns to work every day,” said an officer who spoke to CQ Roll Call on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about repercussions. Full story

June 6, 2014

Capitol Police Say They Won’t Enforce Bike Permit Rules on Public … Yet

bike presser002 050912 440x289 Capitol Police Say They Wont Enforce Bike Permit Rules on Public ... Yet

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Traffic rules that went into effect on June 1 prohibit anyone without a permit from the House or Senate from parking a bike on Capitol grounds.

That would effectively ban lobbyists, tourists and the thousands of other people visiting Congress from using the 40 or so outdoor bike racks previously available to the public.

Capitol Police say they don’t plan to enforce the law on the outdoor bike racks or impound bikes as long as they are parked appropriately. Full story

May 21, 2014

Koch Brothers Movie Saga Continues With Democrats Pointing to Precedent

The Capitol Hill premiere of a film about billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch sparked outrage from Republicans on Tuesday, but it wasn’t all that long ago that a movie co-produced by Citizens United was being screened in the Capitol Visitor Center.

In September 2009, Republicans hosted former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and his wife, Callista, for an on-campus premiere of their documentary, “Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage.” A joint production of Gingrich Productions and Citizens United, the film explores the role of religion in early American history.

Full story

May 7, 2014

Maloney Hopes Reagan Commission Blueprint Could Breathe New Life Into National Women’s History Museum

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Maloney, center, is leading the charge for a National Women’s History Museum this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For the fourth time in the 16 years that women on Capitol Hill have been talking about creation of a National Women’s History Museum, Congress appears poised to advance plans for its creation.

In 2003, 2005 and 2009, similar bills passed either the House or the Senate with bipartisan support, only to be stalled in the other chamber. This time around, with a record 102 women serving in Congress, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., believes there is “more momentum” behind the museum.

She will find out Wednesday, when the House is expected to vote on a bill establishing a privately funded commission to study the possible establishment and maintenance of a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 8 a.m.
House Admin

May 5, 2014

Democrats Pushing to Make Vaping Verboten Around Capitol Hill

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Democrats want e-cigarrettes included in rules regulating tobacco smoking around Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Under current rules, nothing would stop a senator from sucking on an electronic cigarette while strolling the halls of Congress. No rules prohibit members of the House or congressional employees from puffing on the liquid nicotine devices. Tourists are also free to spend their Capitol Hill visit vaping.

While tobacco smoking is banned in public areas of the Capitol and House and Senate office buildings within 25 feet of their entrances, the prohibitions do not extend to e-cigarettes.

New Senate regulations drafted at the urging of Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., could change that in one wing of the Capitol campus. Full story

May 1, 2014

House Approves Funding for Sexual Harassment Training to End ‘Mad Men-Style Antics’ (Audio)

affordable presser009 032012 440x292 House Approves Funding for Sexual Harassment Training to End Mad Men Style Antics (Audio)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Vance McAllister’s affair put the spotlight on sexual relationships between members of Congress and their aides, but “he was not the tipping point” for the lawmaker pushing mandatory sexual harassment training for all House offices.

“We’ve had plenty of incidents before him,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told CQ Roll Call on Thursday, in reference to the Louisiana Republican. “The truth is, there’s a vulnerability that I’ve thought for a long time needed to be fixed.”

The women of the House aired much of the Congress’ dirty laundry during debate of the proposal to provide $500,000 for lawmakers and their staff to undergo training about what constitutes inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. Under current law, Congress is not covered by certain workplace rights laws required for private businesses and the executive branch, including mandatory discrimination training.  The legislative branch appropriations bill approved Thursday includes money for the Office of Compliance aimed at enhancing training programs by implementing a web-based platform. Full story

April 30, 2014

Moran’s Housing Stipend Gets Some Sympathy on House Floor

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Appropriators showed some sympathy on the House floor Wednesday for Rep. James P. Moran’s concern that members of Congress aren’t paid well enough to afford Washington.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who holds the gavel on the panel that funds House operations, disagreed with Moran’s proposed housing stipend, pointing out that it was out of order on a spending bill, but said repeatedly that he was “glad” the Virginia Democrat made the “important point.”

Moran pitched an amendment that would have added about $2,800 to the average member’s $174,000 annual salary to help cover the high cost of living in the District and its immediate surrounding area. His framed his proposal, rejected by the House Rules Committee, as a way to diversify the ranks of Congress beyond independently wealthy members and those looking to cash out for fat private sector paychecks.

“I particularly share your concerns about the long-term character of the body, and I think those are well made,” Cole said Wednesday.  ”I don’t think we are in any danger right now of reaching that point, but I think my friend does point out a trend that could occur.

“I would also be quick to add there are about as many different styles of members as there are members themselves,” Cole continued, saying that some serve only a few years in Congress, not because they want to cash out, but because they support term limits. “They just think that’s the appropriate length of time, and that’s a judgment that quite often shared by their constituents.”

Moran, who is retiring at the end of this term after 23 years in Congress, has watched congressional pay decline by 20 percent in actual dollars during his tenure. This is the first time a congressional pay freeze has been included in the legislative branch appropriations bill, and Moran worries his colleagues are setting a “dangerous precedent.”

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., also supported a salary increase and suggested that, with “at least 20 members of the House of Representatives living in their offices” and moderate annual rent in D.C. hovering around $27,000, now might be a good time to act.

“I don’t think it unreasonable for us to not only have a discussion, but to do something about the fact that there are members that are here that can’t afford that on the salary that they make,” Hastings said on the floor Wednesday.

He suggested that the public might be more sympathetic to the idea if they could see that the representative they elect “cannot serve in a proper manner living in accommodations, that I think they deserve by getting to this high station.”

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