Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

Posts in "Legislative Branch Funding"

December 10, 2014

GPO Name Change, Dome Restoration in Legislative Branch Funding

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Hoeven discusses the Dome restoration project. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Legislative branch spending in the year-end spending bill includes a slight increase from fiscal 2014, allocating $4.3 billion to agencies and instituting a number of policy changes, including changing the name of the Government Printing Office and developing online sexual harassment training for staffers.

Under the bill, the GPO would be re-named the Government Publishing Office “to acknowledge that the information needs of Congress, Federal agencies, and the public have evolved beyond print.” GPO spokesman Gary Somerset said Wednesday the office is pleased with the change and hopes Congress will pass the bill. Full story

December 2, 2014

Legislative Branch Funding Takes Shape

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Hoeven is confident legislative branch funding is all set. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As House and Senate appropriators negotiate the structure and content of a government funding package, funding for legislative branch agencies appears to be all set.

“As far as our piece, we’re in good shape,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., ranking member on the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee. “We’ve, you know, pretty much closed out everything other than some of the things that some of the leadership wants to have a say on, but … it’s more technical.” Full story

November 19, 2014

Capitol Dome Braces for Next Phase of Restoration

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Sen. John Hoeven discusses the dome restoration project. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With frigid winds whipping around the 288 foot-tall Capitol Dome, Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers said the next phase of the nearly $60 million restoration project has begun.

Ayers told reporters gathered on the roof of the Capitol Tuesday that the scaffolding surrounding the Dome was complete, which he said was “a significant milestone.”

“The purpose of the scaffold is a very practical one,” said Ayers. “With its completion, workers are now able to access the Dome freely and can use the equipment necessary to begin the restoration work in earnest.” And those workers will be spotted on the 25 levels of scaffolding throughout the winter months, according to restoration construction manager Joseph Abriatis. Full story

October 3, 2014

House Says Goodbye to Styrofoam

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Staffers have already noticed new food containers in Longworth. (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Food containers in the House became more environmentally friendly last week, as paper containers have started to take the place of their plastic foam counterparts.

Dan Weiser, spokesman for the chief administrative officer, could not say whether the new containers are more expensive because the CAO does not comment on contracts. But, Weiser said, “Food prices are not going to go up.”

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., and ranking member Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., announced the change on Tuesday. They noted the new containers will be phased in “once existing inventories have depleted.” Full story

October 2, 2014

Union Finds Decrease in Library of Congress Staff

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Library of Congress has experienced a significant reduction in staff over the past 10 years and faces an even greater reduction as more employees near retirement, according to data gathered by an employee union.

“One of the Library’s greatest resources, which is its staff, has already hemorrhaged,” Library of Congress Professional Guild president Saul Schniderman told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “This isn’t something that’s going to happen. It’s already happened.” The union represents roughly half of the library’s more than 3,000 employees.

In a letter to guild members, Schniderman noted a nearly 50 percent drop in catalog and acquisition librarians and a roughly 25 percent drop in reference services staff over the past 10 years. The data also showed a slight increase in information technology specialists. Full story

You Can’t FOIA the Capitol Police

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Has Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., or Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, ever taken an elevator ride alongside an armed contractor with a criminal record?

The answer to that and other sensitive security questions about congressional protective details is hard to find, thanks to legislation enacted in 2004.

Capitol Police are exempted from having to release to another entity any information “that relates to actions taken … in response to an emergency situation, or to any other counterterrorism and security preparedness measures” unless they determine that releasing the information will not “jeopardize the security and safety” of the Capitol complex.

House appropriators inserted that language into the Legislative Branch Appropriations measure at the request of the department, according to reporting from this news organization and others at the time. A senior Capitol Police official said then that authority of the agency to withhold information had been challenged by various executive branch agencies.

The law shielded Capitol Police from having to provide information security plans to the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and other executive branch agencies that might submit Freedom of Information Act requests.

Counterterrorism information, such as actions related to anthrax or ricin attacks at the Capitol, could also be exempted. Asking for the exemption in 2004 bucked a post-Sept. 11 trend toward more information sharing among law enforcement agencies.

Nothing in the law prevents members of Congress or committees from obtaining information from the Capitol Police regarding operations and activities that affect the House or Senate.

Under the legislation, the Capitol Police Board — which consists of the police chief, architect of the Capitol, and both chambers’ sergeants-at-arms — has the authority to release information only if they determine it will not compromise safety of the buildings, grounds or any individual they protect. The board must act in consultation with law enforcement and security experts, plus appropriate congressional committees.

Capitol Police are authorized to protect members of Congress and their immediate family in any area of the United States, if the board determines such protection to be necessary. That includes the president pro tempore of the Senate, third in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president and speaker.

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September 3, 2014

Staffers Criticize Security Changes at House Garages

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(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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June 17, 2014

Woodall, Duckworth Want Congress to Speak Frankly About Franking Mail

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(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

May 1, 2014

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

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(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

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