Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 3, 2015

Posts in "Members of Congress"

February 27, 2015

Code Pink Feeling Stifled by Capitol Police Crackdown

CodePink protesters more likely to end up in handcuffs on the Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lately, Code Pink protests have ended with handcuffs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Forced into handcuffs before and after congressional hearings over the past two days, protesters organizing with Code Pink are fuming about the beefed-up presence of Capitol Police when contentious, high-profile officials testify on Capitol Hill.

On Thursday, officers arrested Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, when he rose from his seat to challenge Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. after the conclusion of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats. Full story

Judge Dismisses Obamacare Lawsuit Targeting Congressional Health Care

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging congressional health care enrollment in the D.C. small business exchange Wednesday, ruling that federal regulations allow members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in the exchange.

In October, the group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of D.C. resident Kirby Vining, alleging that allowing Congress to enroll in the small business exchange violated D.C. law, which stipulates that a small business has 50 or fewer employees. The D.C. government acknowledged Congress is not a small business under D.C. law as part of a motion to the dismiss the case in January. But the D.C. government also argued a 2013 Office of Personnel Management ruling instructing congressional employees to enroll in the exchange trumped D.C. law, and enrollment could continue. Full story

February 26, 2015

Private Plane Rides Have Bumpy Congressional History

Schock"to stay connected with my constituents," and also travels for campaign fundraising purposes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Schock’s office explained his frequent flights as a way “to stay connected with my constituents.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Among the serious accusations of improper spending leveled at Rep. Aaron Schock since The Washington Post shined a spotlight on his “Downton Abbey”-themed office are at least a dozen flights aboard his political donors’ private planes.

But Rep. Don Young and a handful of other lawmakers have pushed to change the very ethics rule Schock is alleged to have violated by accepting flights aboard privately owned aircraft. Full story

February 25, 2015

Congress Investigating D.C. Marijuana Legalization

Chaffetz is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Chaffetz is the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One day before the District of Columbia is set to legalize marijuana, members of Congress are launching an investigation into D.C.’s decision to do so, and warning that implementing legalization would break the law.

“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., wrote in a letter sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser early Wednesday morning.

Full story

February 20, 2015

Vitter Extends Deadline for Obamacare Documents From D.C., House, Senate

Vitter is continuing to demand answers about congressional health care enrollment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Vitter is demanding answers about congressional health care enrollment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. David Vitter is continuing his investigation into congressional health care enrollment, and he was not satisfied with recent responses from the D.C. government and House and Senate officials.

The Louisiana Republican issued a statement Thursday to announce he’s giving the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, the House Clerk and the Senate financial clerk until Feb. 24 to answer questions and provide documents regarding health care enrollment. He wants to know why members of Congress and their staffs were allowed to enroll in the D.C. small-business exchange, despite the fact Congress does not fit the definition of a small business. The original deadline was Feb. 13, but the responses to Vitter’s investigation were unsatisfactory, so he has extended the deadline.

“My investigation is centered on determining how Congress was designated as a small business in order to exempt its roughly 16,000 employees, including Members, from clear requirements under Obamacare,” Vitter said in a statement. “Yet the key players involved appear unwilling to comply with a straightforward congressional request.”

In a letter sent last week to the three agencies, Vitter requested the DCHBE meet with him to discuss enrollment; that House and Senate offices disclose who directed officials to “falsify” exchange applications; that electronic copies of the applications be provided without redactions and that Congress and the District only allow small businesses to participate in the exchange.

Vitter’s request came after documents, made public as part of a lawsuit the watchdog group Judicial Watch filed against DCHBE in October, revealed the House and Senate applications claimed the institutions had 45 employees and classified them as “state/local government.” The electronic signatures, showing which congressional employees certified the applications were valid, were redacted.

DCBHE Executive Director Mila Kofman, who is a defendant in the Judicial Watch case, wrote in a letter to Vitter last week, saying she could not provide documents or information due to the ongoing lawsuit. She also wrote, “Providing enrollment applications for any of our customers would be considered a breach of trust.”

Ileana Garcia, the financial clerk of the Senate, wrote in a letter to Vitter that the Senate Disbursing Office provided data to D.C. Health Link in order to conform with the technological system that could not be altered.

“Administrative offices were instructed to use DC Health Link and understood that, due to compressed implementation time frame, system modifications to the DC Health Link system were not an option,” Garcia wrote. “As a result, it was necessary to provide data that was compatible for system processing to establish the required employer account in a timely manner.”

“[D]espite technical challenges, to the best of the Disbursing Office’s knowledge, this office, at no time in the process, provided any part misleading information,” she later added.

Vitter also demanded answers from the House Clerk, but House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy declined to provide information, arguing that Vitter’s role as Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee chairman does not give him jurisdiction over House offices. Cassidy noted that his response would likely be similar to the Senate Disbursing Office’s response to Vitter’s requests.

But Vitter was not satisfied by any of these letters. And if he does not get a satisfactory response from the agencies by next week, will there be a discussion about issuing subpoenas? “We’ll reassess after the deadline next week,” Small Business Committee spokeswoman Cheyenne Klotz said.

The investigation is a continuation of Vitter’s longstanding crusade against what he deems the “Washington Obamacare exemption,” or the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 ruling that allowed congressional employees to keep the government contribution to their health care. On Feb. 13, Vitter sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, explaining he is placing a procedural hold on the deputy director’s nomination until he receives answers about the decisions to continue the contribution and allow Congress to enroll in the small business exchange.

Related: 

Vitter Requests Obamacare Documents From D.C., House and Senate

D.C. Government: OPM Trumps Local Law on Congressional Health Care

Obamacare Lawsuit Challenges Congress’ ‘Small Business’ Status

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

GOP: Staffers Should Use Obamacare

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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February 13, 2015

Farenthold’s Office Denies ‘Sexual Fantasies’ About Fired Staffer

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two months after a discrimination lawsuit accused Rep. Blake Farenthold of creating a hostile, sexually charged work environment, the Texas Republican claims his former communications director was fired for not showing up to work and lying about the circumstances of her absence.

In a detailed, 14-page response filed by attorneys from the Office of House Employment Counsel, Farenthold, 53, denied he was attracted to 27-year-old staffer Lauren Greene or that he had the “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” Greene alleged in her complaint. Full story

No New Confidence in Metro After Hearing on L’Enfant Incident

Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., conducts a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing in Rayburn on marijuana laws in the District. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Mica grilled Metro and D.C. Fire authorities on the Jan. 12 incident. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite intense scrutiny from lawmakers and federal safety regulators in the month since the deadly Metro incident that sent dozens of riders to the hospital and resulted in one death, local transit and public safety officials haven’t convinced passengers that the Jan. 12 emergency couldn’t happen again.

After 75 minutes of testimony and questioning, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee put the spotlight on Jonathan Rogers, a witness to the Metro chaos, who captured video from within the train and worked with fellow passengers to administer CPR to Carol I. Glover, the 61-year-old woman who died of acute respiratory failure due to smoke exposure. Full story

February 12, 2015

Bowser Talks Metro and Marijuana on Capitol Hill

Bowser met with members of Congress Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser met with members of Congress Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two weeks after meeting with Speaker John A. Boehner, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser was back on Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with Democratic leaders and others to discuss D.C. issues, including Metro funding, marijuana legalization and autonomy.

Bowser told CQ Roll Call after her discussion with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that the meetings were part of an ongoing effort to foster relationships on Capitol Hill. She also met with Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn, D-S.C. and the leaders of the Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over D.C. “Our focus has been on creating new relationships between the mayor and members of the Congress,” Bowser said. “And so I just wanted to let Leader Pelosi know that our door is open.” Full story

Senate Committee Cuts a Reversal of Trend

Sen. Roy Blunt heads the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Sen. Roy Blunt heads the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

As the House Administration Committee deliberated committee funding over the past week, its counterpart across the Dome, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee adopted its funding resolution in a two-minute markup Thursday morning.

The resolution allocates more than $198 million from March 1, 2015, to Feb. 28, 2017, to the Senate committees. The figure is a slight decrease from committee funding for the 113th Congress, which amounted $201 million. The Rules Committee quickly dispensed with the duty of committee funding, with Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., noting the process was completed earlier than usual due to strong staff work. But the Senate did receive some criticism from the other chamber for a lack of cuts over the past few years. Full story

February 11, 2015

Black GOP Lawmakers Stress Self-Reliance at Trailblazer Luncheon

(Clyde McGrady/CQ Roll Call)

(Clyde McGrady/CQ Roll Call)

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday hosted its 3rd Annual Republican Trailblazer Awards Luncheon at the historic Howard Theatre — a venue graced by legendary black luminaries and performers such as Booker T. Washington, Duke Ellington and Drake.

The RNC calls the luncheon “an event that celebrates Black History Month by honoring black Republicans who have blazed a path for future leaders.” This year’s honorees were Utah Rep. Mia Love, Texas Rep. Will Hurd, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and posthumously, former Republican Sen. Edward Brooke III of Massachusetts who died earlier this year at the age of 95. Full story

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