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October 23, 2014

Posts in "Senate Sergeant-at-Arms"

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

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(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

August 8, 2014

‘House of Cards’ Film Crew Hits National Mall on Saturday

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Could more filming be coming to the Capitol grounds? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“House of Cards” is filming around the National Mall on Saturday, according to the D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

It’s unlikely fans of the wildly popular Netflix series will spot stars Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright during the 10-hour set. Crews will be “shooting ‘drive-bys’, b-roll, and a mock-motorcade scene,” says a notice posted on the agency’s site.

Local officials would love to have the show, which shoots most of its scenes in Baltimore and other areas, do more production in the District, but filming in D.C. has its challenges — especially on the Capitol grounds. Full story

July 29, 2014

Protest Raises Questions About Contract Workers of Legislative Branch

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Norton and Ellison rally with federal contractors who work at Union Station, the National Zoo and other D.C. sites. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Labor issues came to Capitol Hill Tuesday, as federal contractors protested wages at Union Station and members of Congress used the opportunity to discuss workers’ rights among contractors and employees in the legislative branch.

About 100 federal contractors who work minimum wage jobs at Union Station, Ronald Reagan National Airport, the National Zoo and the Pentagon marched through Columbus Circle on Tuesday morning waving picket signs and flags.

Halting the flow of taxis and tour buses at Union Station, they protested the White House’s executive order to increase hourly pay on new government contracts to $10.10 as “not enough” and demanded the right to unionize.

“These courageous workers have gone on strike nine times,” said Rev. Michael Livingston, national policy director and head of the Washington, D.C., office for Interfaith Worker Justice. The people waving white and blue flags behind his lectern were predominantly women, many dressed like Rosie the Riveter in red bandanas and starched blue shirts and holding the hands of toddlers who marched alongside their working moms. Full story

June 25, 2014

Self-Proclaimed ‘Senate Comedian’ Shows His ‘Caucasian Skills’ (Audio)

Scanning the crowd in the back room of a downtown D.C. sports bar, Senate doorkeeper Scott Muschett, the self-proclaimed “Senate Comedian,” decided the script for his five minutes at the mic was all wrong.

“When I wrote the material tonight, OK, I thought there was going to be a whole bunch of brothas in the house, but it’s all skinny, progressive, urban, young millenials,” Muschett said, pausing before his punchline — an off-color joke about Mel Gibson, delivered a little too quietly to be heard over the excited crowd. He stood at the head of a 12-seat table scattered with beer cans and cocktail glasses and surrounded by Senate sergeant-at-arms employees who came out to Chinatown’s RFD bar to support their longtime co-worker. Full story

June 6, 2014

Capitol Police Say They Won’t Enforce Bike Permit Rules on Public … Yet

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Traffic rules that went into effect on June 1 prohibit anyone without a permit from the House or Senate from parking a bike on Capitol grounds.

That would effectively ban lobbyists, tourists and the thousands of other people visiting Congress from using the 40 or so outdoor bike racks previously available to the public.

Capitol Police say they don’t plan to enforce the law on the outdoor bike racks or impound bikes as long as they are parked appropriately. Full story

May 30, 2014

Capitol Police Overhaul Campus Traffic Rules

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Will you still be able to Seg ‘n Selfie? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a news dump late Friday afternoon, the Capitol Police released updated traffic regulations for the Capitol grounds that will be “effective and enforceable by June 1.”

The department touted the new rules as “straightforward and easier to understand,” following the first major rewrite in more than 30 years. The police say they redrafted any regulation with overly technical language to be more clear in the new, 179-page document posted on their website.

For example, a rule referring to “brake force deceleration per second” was updated to read: “All brakes shall be maintained in good working order.”

Other major changes include:

  • An entirely new chapter, Chapter 9, dealing with taxicabs that corresponds with current District of Columbia regulations.
  • Bicycles, Segways and pedicabs are now covered covered separately from motor vehicles in the portion dealing with foot traffic and recreational traffic on the grounds.
  • The language has been updated to include all new architectural features on the Capitol Grounds, including the East Front and Capitol Visitor Center.
  • Rules relating to demonstrations and other miscellaneous activities on the Capitol Grounds have been “substantially revised,” according to the department. One major change makes demonstration rules applicable to groups of 20 or under as well as to groups of over 20.
  • Road races will only be permitted through the Capitol Grounds on Sundays.

A task force comprised of personnel from the Capitol Police, Architect of the Capitol and House and Senate Sergeants at Arms worked together on the rules, and reviewed current D.C. code.

“The goal of the task force was to propose to the Capitol Police Board amendments to the [Capitol traffic rules] intended to make the regulations more comprehensive and specifically aligned with current traffic regulation and enforcement on Capitol Grounds,” they stated in the release.

Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the department, was not immediately able to comment on the changes.

May 6, 2014

Gainer’s New Gig: Senior Adviser to Securitas Private Security Firm

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Gainer, left, will now work for a security firm that contracts with federal agencies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Seven years as the Senate’s chief law enforcement and administrative officer made Terrance W. Gainer the longest-serving sergeant-at-arms since World War II.

When his May retirement was announced, some asked the well-like Illinois native why he wasn’t aiming to be to be the longest-serving sergeant-at-arms in history.

That title currently belongs to the Senate’s first sergeant-at-arms, Revolutionary War veteran James Mathers, who served for 22 years, from April 1789 until his death in September 1811.

Gainer’s answer: “What I really want to be is the sergeant-at-arms who’s lived the longest,” he said during a March interview with CQ Roll Call. After more than 46 years of public service, the former chief of the Capitol Police was looking forward to moving into the private sector, likely to do consulting work, and see if he could “build the Gainer coffers up.”

On Monday, Securitas Security Services USA, a New Jersey-headquartered company that provides guards and protective services to federal buildings under contracts with the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, announced Gainer as its senior adviser, effective immediately.

“We are very pleased that Terry has joined Securitas USA and look forward to his valuable contributions.” Terence McGrath, president of Securitas USA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, said in a statement. “His background and experience in security and law enforcement at all levels will strengthen our position as an industry ‘knowledge leader.’”

Gainer will be based at the company’s regional office in Frederick, Md., and tasked with advising senior management on security-related matters, including cyber, physical and personal security, according to the release.

Securitas does business on a global and national level, with more than 640 local branch managers and approximately 86,000 security officers. They offer specialized, mobile and remote guarding and corporate risk management.

When senators took to the floor to praise the outgoing “chief” late last week, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, a fellow Illinoisan, lauded Gainer’s record on security.

“This building is a target for people who would bring destruction to this building and death to those who visit,” Durbin said, reflecting on his role in recent tragedies. The senator said Gainer’s “steady hand and his constant presence in the halls” would be greatly missed.

The Senate on Monday elected Gainer’s deputy of five years, Drew Willison, to replace him.

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