Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

Posts in "Legislative Branch Funding"

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.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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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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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

police 044 051412 440x285 Capitol Police Under Scrutiny for Alleged Affair

(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

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.”

April 28, 2014

After Half-Century in Print Trade, GPO Manager Embraces More Change

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Crawford, who started as a bookbinder in 1966, poses by one of the binding machines at the Government Printing Office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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

Citing Ukraine Crisis, GOP Looks to Cut Open World Leadership Center

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

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