Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2015

Posts in "Members of Congress"

July 27, 2015

D.C. Drawn Into Sanctuary Cities Debate

Gohmert introduced "The Safer DC Act" Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Gohmert introduced “The Safer DC Act” Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House has voted to limit funding for so-called sanctuary cities, but one lawmaker is pushing to take further action in the District of Columbia, dictating specific policies for law enforcement.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, has introduced “The Safer D.C. Act” declaring the District is a “sanctuary city,” or a jurisdiction with policies that shelter undocumented immigrants. “The Constitution explicitly vests Congress with exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia — and we should take action,” Gohmert said. “Therefore, at the very least, Congress must use our explicit Constitutional power to ensure that at least the District of Columbia is not a sanctuary city.” Full story

July 24, 2015

Capitol Marks 17 Years Since Fatal Shooting

Capitol Police Officer Gene Petty stands on ceremonial duty before an annual wreath-laying ceremony for U.S. Capitol Police Officer Jacob J. Chestnut and Detective John M. Gibson, killed by a gunman while on duty in 1998. The ceremony took place at an entrance to the Capitol dedicated to the slain officers. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Police honor two of their own, who were killed by a gunman while on duty in 1998. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On a day when Louisiana lawmakers and other members of Congress mourned a fatal shooting in a Lafayette movie theater, Capitol Hill also honored two Capitol Police officers killed by a gunman who charged into the Capitol exactly 17 years ago.

“Shots fired at the Document Door. This was some 50 feet from where I was sitting. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers were down,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, recalled on Friday. “Their names were Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson. Between them, they had eight children and 36 years on the job.” Full story

Convicted Republicans Plead for Mandatory Minimums Changes

Kevin Ring, who is serving the remainder of a sentence for bribing public officials under home confinement, is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in the DC office of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, May 11, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ring says courts need more leeway in sentencing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An ex-colleague of Jack Abramoff shared an anecdote from his stint in prison with a room full of conservatives Thursday. After the one-time Hill climber explained to a fellow inmate that a dog was going to get neutered, the inmate asked the longtime Republican aide, “How long does it take for them to grow back?”

Kevin Ring, the lobbyist who was sentenced in 2011 to 20 months in federal prison for his role in a corruption scheme, was pitching to GOP aides gathered in the Rayburn House Office Building on an effort to overhaul mandatory minimum requirements. Ring, who has been working in downtown Washington, D.C., since his April prison release, wanted the staffers to understand that current guidelines more often send low-level dealers and addicts to prison, not drug kingpins. Full story

July 23, 2015

Senate Panel OKs 10-Year Credit-Monitoring for Hacked Workers

Mikulski offered two OPM amendments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mikulski offered two OPM amendments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Senate panel approved enhanced protections for the more than 22 million federal workers and retirees affected by data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management Thursday, but opted not to provide additional funds for the embattled agency.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, by voice vote, agreed to adopt more protections for federal workers and retirees whose information was stolen in two breaches at OPM, by attaching a provision to the appropriations bill with jurisdiction over the agency. But lawmakers also opted, by voice vote, not to provide additional money to OPM. Full story

July 22, 2015

Capitol Food Workers Bring Income Inequality to Congress’ Front Step

A protester at Wednesday's rally. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Workers called for higher wages and a union. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

For the third time in the past eight months, food-service workers at the Capitol have gone on strike to push for higher wages and union representation, a rare example of a national issue — income inequality — hitting close to home for Congress.

Forty Capitol workers, the highest number so far, joined roughly 650 federal contract workers from across the District of Columbia Wednesday who went on strike and rallied in Upper Senate Park. Full story

National Security or First Amendment? Gyrocopter Case Proceeds

UNITED STATES - MAY 21: Doug Hughes conducts a news conference outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, May 21, 2015, after pleading not guilty to six counts regarding his landing of a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hughes wants to argue a “necessity defense” for his gyrocopter flight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The airspace security concerns Congress has harped on since the April 15 gyrocopter stunt on the West Front continue to delay Douglas Hughes from a federal trial, but the Florida mailman has dreamed up his own defense strategy.

Hughes presented his “necessity defense” to reporters Wednesday, after a status hearing in the federal courthouse mere blocks from the Capitol. Full story

July 21, 2015

Lawmaker Threatens to Strip WMATA of Management

Mica conducted a hearing on WMATA safety and management. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)


Amid concerns about the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s management of the second busiest transit system in the country, one member of Congress is threatening to strip WMATA of its current management and structure.

“If this nonsense continues in the lack of management and the ability to get extensive management in place, I will work, and I think I can get support, to require that the operations and management be put up for bid and be given to an operating company,” Rep. John L. Mica said at a hearing on Metro safety and management Tuesday evening. Full story

WWI Group Asks Congress to Help Commemorate War

Rep. Ted Poe discusses commemorating WWI. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

Poe discusses commemorating WWI. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

Braving the stifling humidity, a handful of members from the Marine Corps re-enactors unit donned their “doughboy” uniforms at the Capitol to bring attention to the commemoration of World War I.

The “doughboys,” the term used for American soldiers in WWI, stood at attention Tuesday morning on the East Front as part of the WWI Centennial Commission’s event to raise awareness about the its plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American involvement in the Great War. Full story

House Phone System Malfunctions During Maintenance

Phones in the House went down Tuesday morning. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Phones in the House went down Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The phone system in the House went down for roughly one hour Tuesday morning, causing some lawmakers to direct phone calls to their district offices.

Engineers for the chief administrative officer sent a message at 10:43 a.m. to House offices stating, “CAO Engineers are working to resolve a problem preventing external phones from calling House phone numbers.” One hour later, CAO engineers sent another notice that they had “resolved the problem with incoming phone calls.”

The notice did not indicate the cause of the malfunction. When asked about the cause, CAO spokeswoman Emily Goodin wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call, “Routine maintenance was being performed on the phone system when a temporary outage occurred.  The problem has been resolved.”

Though the problem was eventually resolved, the malfunction caused some chaos on Capitol Hill.

A handful of lawmakers’ Twitter accounts attempted to alert constituents about the issue, instructing those looking to contact them to call their district offices.

In Rep. Brad Wenstrup’s Longworth office, Communications Director Greg Brooks first noticed the phone problem around 10:30 a.m. Brooks told CQ Roll Call he was expecting a call from someone, but received an email instead, saying they couldn’t get through. Staffers in the Ohio Republican’s office began investigating the problem, and discovered word was spreading on an internal listserv.

“Our phones in DC are experiencing technical difficulties,” Wenstrup’s official account tweeted at 10:54 a.m., along with contact info for the congressman’s Cinncinatti office.

Fellow Ohio Republican Pat Tiberi tweeted about the problems with the phones in his Longworth office one minute later, instructing those in need of assistance to contact his office in Worthington, Ohio.

Rep. David Joyce, D-Ohio, cited “technical difficulties” in Washington on social media. The phones were down for about 45 minutes, according to Kevin Benacci, Joyce’s deputy chief of staff.

Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., alerted his constituents to the “out-of-order” phones.

District staff for Rep. Lynn Jenkins helped the Kansas Republican’s Capitol Hill office realize the phone lines were down, according to spokesman Tom Brandt. The office sent out a tweet, instructing callers to dial Jenkins’ Topeka office. About 10 to 15 minutes after the problem was discovered, the phones began working, Brandt said.

As of noon, Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., was the only congressman to tweet that his phones were back up. A GOP staffer in Las Vegas said staff on the Hill notified Hardy’s district team of the issue. It was resolved 25 minutes later.

Emily Cahn contributed to this report.

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July 20, 2015

Cruz and Vitter to Target Congressional Health Care

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter’s crusade against congressional health care benefits will continue this week, this time with help from a presidential hopeful.

The Lousisiana Republican is expected to introduce “No Exemptions” legislation to combat the employer contribution for lawmakers, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is expected to copy the language and try to insert it as an amendment into the highway funding bill the Senate is set to consider this week.

Cruz and Vitter have vigorously opposed the government contribution to congressional health care under the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “Washington exemption.” Lawmakers and their staffs were able to maintain that contribution as the result of a 2013 Office of Personnel Management ruling that House and Senate employees could participate in the D.C. Small Business Health Option Program, rather than enroll on the individual exchanges.

“The very people who wrote the law — Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats — wanted out of it. And this Administration was only too happy to oblige,” Cruz said in a statement Monday. “Today, the taxpayers subsidize their platinum plans while millions of Americans across this country have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work, have lost their health insurance, have lost their doctors, and are facing skyrocketing premiums,” Cruz continued. “Yet members of Congress retain their illegal exemptions from Obamacare, and it’s time to end the Washington favors that have gone on for far too long.”

Cruz offering the amendment to the long-term transportation bill would be a move sure to bring more contention to the process.

Another GOP presidential hopeful, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has already signaled he wants an amendment vote this week to block federal dollars from flowing to Planned Parenthood, and the must-pass measure is also lining up as the vehicle for reviving the Export-Import Bank.

Aside from presidential politics, there may be a good reason for Cruz to take charge this time.

Unlike the many times Vitter sought to get votes on amendments related to what he calls the “Washington exemption” from the reach of the Affordable Care Act, the highway bill is a measure on which the Louisiana Republican has played a significant role. He’s a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and chairman of the subpanel with federal-aid highways in its jurisdiction.

But Vitter made no reference to potentially complicating the highway bill in a statement Monday. Instead, he touted a 73-page report on his investigation into “Congress’ fraudulent Obamacare subsidy.”

Vitter contends Congress should not have been allowed to enroll in the small business exchange, since it is, by definition, not a small business under D.C. law since Congress employs more than 50 people. The question of Congress’ characterization as a small business in the exchange was the subject of a recent taxpayer lawsuit, but the suit was dismissed when a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled congressional staff could enroll in the exchange.

Still, Vitter is looking for answers, even after a failed attempt to subpoena the D.C. government over the issue. He listed a series of questions at the end of his report, including which members of Congress met with the White House to discuss the OPM rule.

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