Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 24, 2014

Posts in "Senate Sergeant-at-Arms"

November 18, 2014

Native American Tribe Protests Keystone Vote (Video) (Updated)

Updated 11:15 p.m. | A Senate vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday took an odd turn after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., read the final vote tally as protestors of the pipeline in the Senate Gallery burst into song.

Capitol Police officers dragged out five protesters, including Greg Grey Cloud of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe as he bellowed a tribal song. Grey Cloud, who wore a headdress, continued singing as he was knocked to the floor and pulled to the wall of the hallway. Full story

Former Sergeant-at-Arms Howard Greene Dies at 73

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Howard O. Greene Jr. died at his home in Alexandria, Va., Sunday at the age of 73.

According to Greene’s ex-wife Elizabeth Letchworth, his death was very unexpected. Greene died from an aggressive infection in his stomach. Letchworth said he was surrounded by family and friends when he died.

Greene first came to the Senate as a door messenger at age 26 and served the chamber for the next 28 years. The Delaware native retired from the Senate in 1996, stepping down as Senate sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper, the chief law enforcement and administrative officer elected by senators. Full story

October 30, 2014

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Mooted as Next Secret Service Director

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Gainer, center, shakes hands with the president after the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon in March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Is the Capitol’s former top cop the best pick to replace former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson? The world’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers thinks so.

On Thursday, Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson asking him to tap Terrance W. Gainer for the job. Citing Gainer’s 47 years in public service, Canterbury says the former Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police chief is one of the few people who can achieve the changes needed in the wake of Pierson’s Oct. 1 resignation.

“The rank-and-file officers know that Terry will do right by them, the agency and the mission,” Canterbury states. “Most importantly for the USSS at this time is confidence that a new Director can make the necessary changes and make them stick. Among those changes, perhaps one of the most critical is the minimization of tensions between the uniformed officers and the agent personnel which are a glaring component of current problems.” Full story

No Changes at Capitol Following Jeh Johnson’s Security Upgrade

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The recent order to beef up security at federal buildings does not appear to have resulted in any changes for the men and women guarding Congress. On Wednesday, a day after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered enhanced protection against the threat of terrorism for government buildings in Washington and across the country, it was business as usual on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Police stood guard around campus, patrol cars circled the perimeter and typical screening procedures stayed in place.

When asked about Capitol Police response, spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider told CQ Roll Call that the department “remains at a post-9/11 heightened level of awareness [and] continues to monitor and track global events.”

One cop on a mountain bike playfully kicked the seat of another officer’s bike as they wheeled around the Peace Circle at noon. Around 1 p.m. inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building, police patted down a man outfitted wearing a white turban and robe who declined to remove garments for the metal detectors.

Down the hall from the first floor entrance, staffers were learning how to respond to an active shooter incident. The Senate sergeant-at-arms developed the hour-long training in coordination with the Capitol Police in 2011. It is one of the highest-attended courses the SAA offers.

The attacks on Canadian Parliament last week prompted no significant changes to security around the grounds, Capitol Police said at the time. Johnson cited that violence and other world events in his announcement of new directions for the Federal Protective Service.

Members of Congress with jurisdiction over day-to-day operations, including Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles E. Schumer, did not indicate they were aware of any changes in protocol.

House Administration Chairman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., is kept up-to-date on the status of security of our Capitol facilities, a spokesperson for the committee responded, when asked if there had been any briefings related to the DHS announcement.

Related:

Terrorism Threat Prompts Jeh Johnson to Order Security Upgrade at Federal Buildings

Capitol Police Monitoring Canadian Parliament Shooting (Updated)

Former Top Cop Suggest Capitol Complex Is Too Open

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 24, 2014

Gainer’s Capitol Fence Is Not a Popular Concept

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Securing the perimeter of the Capitol’s open campus is a challenge for Capitol Police. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The idea of building a security fence around the Capitol appears just as unpopular now as it was a decade ago, when then-Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer pitched the idea to Congress.

In 2004, House appropriators added language to the legislative branch appropriations bill to prohibit Capitol Police from spending public dollars on the project. At the time, amendment sponsor Sam Farr, D-Calif., said a fence “really hurt the image and understanding of what a democracy is all about.”

Gainer, who retired from his post as Senate sergeant-at-arms in the spring, is again talking about erecting a “tasteful fence” about a block around the Capitol that would allow people to get screened before entering the campus, but current law enforcement officials aren’t commenting and elected officials aren’t biting. Full story

October 23, 2014

Do the Capitol’s Sergeants-at-Arms Carry Guns? (Video)

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Gainer, left, at the Capitol in April with his predecessors Al Lenhardt and William Pickle. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of the Canadian Parliament are praising as a hero House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former police superintendent, for his reported role in taking down the gunman who entered the building. Capitol Hill may be wondering if its own sergeants-at-arms usually pack heat.

“I didn’t carry it all the time,” former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Thursday morning. “I had it close at hand in a locked compartment.”

Gainer, who served as chief of the Capitol Police before his seven-year gig in the Senate, said he frequently relied on the uniformed officers of the department. “We have concentric circles of security around here and so they are the first line of defense, but as the chief law enforcement officer, I was armed when I needed to be or thought it was appropriate,” he said.

Full story

October 22, 2014

Former Top Cop Suggests Capitol Complex Is Too Open (Audio)

Congress’ former top cop thinks there should be major changes to security at the 276-acre Capitol complex, saying its open and accessible campus is “much to my chagrin.”

Terrance W. Gainer said in an interview he would add gates around the Capitol perimeter and consider re-routing traffic around campus. Gainer made his comments as a federal judge ordered Omar Gonzalez to undergo a mental health evaluation within the next 30 days to determine whether he is competent to stand trial on federal and local charges of infiltrating the White House on Sept. 19. The case is causing major repercussions for the Secret Service.

It also prompted Gainer, the former Senate sergeant-at-arms who also served four years as the chief of the Capitol Police, to frankly address the challenges for guarding the complex against intrusions.

“One of the challenges the chief has, or the director of the Secret Service, is keeping everybody sharp all the time,” Gainer told CQ Roll Call. “Up on Capitol Hill we have, you know, 25,000 employees and 3 million visitors so it is very open, and keeping the officers alert and active, you know, is an important challenge.”

Full story

October 14, 2014

‘Special Treatment’ for Congress Inspires Another Obamacare Lawsuit

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DC Health Link enrollment is under attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This time it’s not a lawmaker, but an outside conservative group that plans to file suit over alleged “special treatment” for members of Congress enrolled in gold-level coverage plans through DC Health Link.

Judicial Watch, the group that continues to dog the Department of Health and Human Services for more transparency about implementation of the 2010 health care law, will share details Wednesday of a “taxpayer lawsuit challenging the District of Columbia’s special treatment of Congress concerning Obamacare.”

The announcement is planned at an event at the National Press Club, where plaintiff Kirby Vining and Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton plan to join attorneys. Details are sparse. Congress accounts for more than a quarter of the 50,520 people enrolled in the D.C. health exchange, and the subsidy members and staff receive to cover premiums has been taking heat from all sides.

DC Health Link offered private sessions to staffers in advance of the Dec. 9 open enrollment deadline, plus on-site help sessions at the Capitol with employees from Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Several staffers who worked in district offices in other parts of the country complained about the enrollment process, and those working in Washington offices experienced technical glitches.

This is not the first suit Judicial Watch has filed related to the exchanges. In March, they filed two lawsuits against HHS to obtain records, one of which related to security and privacy concerns surrounding the Healthcare.gov web portal.

On August 8, they filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking emails and documents involving communications to and from former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. Judicial Watch wants to know what was said about enrollment figures, performance and security testing of the site, decisions about when to make certain information publicly available, plus other FOIA requests.

Jill Sutherland Farrell, director of Judicial Watch, declined to provide further information on the plaintiff or the nature of the lawsuit in a phone call with CQ Roll Call.

The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has criticized the special support sessions at the Capitol and help hotlines offered to members and staff. They challenged that insurance companies provided perks in violation of congressional ethics rules.

Members of both parties on Capitol Hill have targeted the employer contributions members of Congress receive for coverage in the D.C. health care exchange. Democratic Reps. Dan Maffei of New York, John Barrow of Georgia and Ron Barber of Arizona, want to eliminate government contributions towards their premiums through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter has also continued to offer his amendment targeting contributions for staffers.

RELATED STORIES:

Democrats Target Health Care Used by Congress

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

Capitol Hill Feels Pains of Obamacare Sign-Up Troubles

Vitter Amendment Won’t Go Away Quietly

As Open Enrollment Deadline Approaches, Insurers Scramble to Give Staffers Support

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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October 9, 2014

Congress’ Doctor: Ebola Precautions Are in Place

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On Sept. 11, Senate Chaplain Barry Black prayed for relief from Ebola during an event in the Senate Swamp. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

With fear of an Ebola outbreak on the rise, the attending physician of Congress is assuring the congressional community that a carefully developed protocol is in place at the Capitol to handle a potential infectious disease outbreak.

In an eight minute video posted on an internal website, Dr. Brian Monahan gave an overview of Ebola’s spread and said the medical personnel at the Office of the Attending Physician ”always take standard precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis.”

That includes basic hand hygiene and using protective equipment to block splashes or other contact with bodily fluids when treating everyone from sick senators to injured tourists. The attending physician operates 10 clinics, located in the Capitol, the House and Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court and the Capitol Visitor Center. Full story

October 6, 2014

Gainer: Better Communication is the Lesson From Navy Yard Shooting

gainer 01 011211 524x335 Gainer: Better Communication is the Lesson From Navy Yard Shooting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Last fall’s massacre at the Navy Yard taught Capitol Hill law enforcement important lessons about front-line response and securing the chambers, according to former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer, who participated in a seminar on the subject Monday as part of his new role with Securitas USA.

One big takeaway: “Get communications to the troops quicker,” said Gainer, who retired this spring after seven years as the Senate’s top law enforcement officer and more than 46 years in public service.

Gainer gave a warm welcome to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who gave a keynote speech during the George Washington University event, reflecting on the response to the mass shooting. Lanier listed a number of regional police forces that helped with the Navy Yard response, including the Park Police and FBI — but not Capitol Police. Full story

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