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Posts in "Legislative Branch Funding"
June 17, 2014
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
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
May 1, 2014
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
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.”
April 28, 2014
Buyouts and layoffs don’t scare John Crawford, the recently appointed managing director of Plant Operations at the Government Printing Office.
When Crawford joined the GPO in 1966, with about eight years of experience in the trade and no high school diploma, the agency employed about 8,500 people. As technology advanced, the journeyman bookbinder steadily rose through ranks and the workforce shrank to about 1,900.
“If you don’t change, you get left behind,” Crawford said, climbing the stairs at the GPO’s North Capitol Street Northwest headquarters after inspecting a state-of-the-art digital press churning out glossy voter guides for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “I’m a change person. A lot of people are afraid of change — I’m not.” Full story
April 18, 2014
In response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, House Republicans want to slash funding for the Open World Leadership Center, an international exchange program established nearly 15 years ago to build relationships with post-Soviet countries.
For fiscal 2015, the $6-million Library of Congress program would be reduced by 43 percent — representing the portion of participants Russia normally sends as delegates to the United States.
House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., called the move “a sign of support for Ukraine,” and emphasized that the decision was made in consultation with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., during the full committee markup on April 9. Full story