Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 3, 2014

Posts in "Staffers"

August 27, 2014

Ryan Shucard Still Negotiating With Federal Prosecutors

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Shucard hopes to return to Capitol Hill. (via Facebook)

During a Wednesday appearance in D.C. Superior Court, Capitol Hill staffer Ryan Shucard did not agree to a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors.

The press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., who was arrested July 18 when Capitol Police discovered a 9mm handgun and magazine in his bag, seems to be negotiating for a better deal with the government. Defense attorney Jason Kalafat said he was still “finalizing work, trying to resolve this matter,” and asked that the case be continued.

Shucard has been charged with carrying a pistol outside the home, a felony that carries up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In the wake of a federal court ruling that struck down the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. offered Shucard an agreement under which he would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition — two charges that each carry a maximum penalty of one year of prison and a $1,000 fine.

“We’re still negotiating, and hopefully will have it wrapped up within the next week or two,” Kalafat told CQ Roll Call.

Shucard sat solemnly next to his mother until his case was called around 11:15 a.m. He agreed to return Sept. 10, the same day Ronald Prestage, another man arrested for bringing a gun to Capitol Hill, is scheduled to be in the downtown courthouse. Shucard has indicated he wants to return to Marino’s office once the matter is settled. He remains on unpaid leave.

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Capitol Hill Gun Case Delayed in Wake of D.C. Ruling

Ryan Shucard Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

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Gun-Related Arrest Is Nothing New for Capitol Police

Scarce Prospects for Senate Shooting Down D.C. Gun Control

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August 26, 2014

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

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Prestage was arrested last month for allegedly carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office Building. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. has offered plea deals to two men who allegedly carried 9mm handguns and ammunition to Capitol Hill in July.

Both Ryan Shucard, a staffer in the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and pork and turkey executive Ronald Prestage face charges of carrying a pistol outside a home or business — a felony that carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine.

Court documents filed in both cases show that Machen has proposed an agreement under which each man would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year of prison and a $1,000 fine. Under the terms of the nearly identical deals, filed on Aug. 15, federal prosecutors would not pursue any other weapons charges, and would reserve the right to allocution, or addressing the court, at the time of sentencing. Full story

August 22, 2014

Ferguson Protests Stay Peaceful in D.C., More Planned

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Protesters wave signs during a peaceful “Day of Rage” rally outside the White House. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Contrary to concerns about violence or vandalism, protesters held peaceful events in Washington Thursday night in response to events in Ferguson, Mo.

What had been billed as a “Day of Rage” in front of the White House drew about two dozen people, including D.C. and St. Louis natives, and a cadre of local press. A handful of protesters sported Guy Fawkes masks often associated with Anonymous, the activist network that called for the nationwide rallies.

Close to 50 people gathered at a plaza across the street from the Columbia Heights Metro station to protest police brutality and the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. A Metropolitan Police Department vehicle was parked nearby, watching the crowd chant, “No racist police!”

Though the crowd was smaller at the White House, the police presence was heavier. Three officers stood casually behind the protesters, as Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin led the group in song.

Full story

August 14, 2014

Capitol Hill Gets First Openly Transgender Staffer of 113th Congress

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New hire pushes gay-rights agenda on the Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Hill is getting its sole transgender staff member, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute announced Thursday.

Connecticut native Ben Panico, who last year interned in the office of Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., through the institute, has been appointed as a fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. He will spend a year helping the caucus, founded in 2008, pursue an ambitious gay-rights agenda in a Congress with a record number of openly gay lawmakers. He is the first openly transgender person to hold the position.

“I first started my work at Victory as a Congressional Intern and have now risen through Victory’s programing to a Congressional Fellow,” Panico said in a statement released by the organization, which has brought more than 20 college leaders to the District since launching its internship program in 2011. The fellowship program launched in 2013.

Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 1:44 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

August 13, 2014

Hill Staffers Learn to Save Lives to the Tune of ‘Stayin’ Alive’

traverso 342x330 Hill Staffers Learn to Save Lives to the Tune of Stayin Alive

Traverso, left, led Capitol Hill staffers through a brief, “hands-only” CPR training. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Striking a falsetto register, Steve Traverso belted out the chorus of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” on Wednesday morning in a tiny first-floor Rayburn reception room.

“Push to the beat,” Traverso instructed the 30 or so Capitol Hill staffers crouched over inflatable dummies on the ornate red carpeting. They pumped their palms into the plastic torsos, listening for the slight “click” that would indicate they were pushing hard enough to save a life.

Traverso, the community CPR manager at the American Heart Association, gave the staffers a 15-minute “hands-only” lesson on what to do when faced with a cardiac emergency. By the end of the brief session, sponsored by AHA and Anthem, Traverso aimed to make the staffers feel confident to perform the life-saving technique without any hesitation. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:36 p.m.
Campus, Staffers

August 12, 2014

Democrats Target Health Care Used by Congress

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Barrow wants to eliminate federal health benefits for members. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The latest challenge to Office of Personnel Management rules on congressional health benefits comes from President Barack Obama’s own party.

Democratic Reps. Dan Maffei of New York, John Barrow of Georgia and Ron Barber of Arizona, are targeting the employer contributions members of Congress receive for coverage in the D.C. health care exchange. Unlike the contentious amendment offered by Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter, their bill would not eliminate contributions for staffers.

Barrow, who voted in 2010 against the creation of the health care law, said staff aren’t responsible for the “perverse incentives in Obamacare” that prompted some employers to kick people off their coverage. “I don’t feel a similar compulsion to set an example at their expense,” he told CQ Roll Call. His full staff was designated as having to enter the exchange.

Full story

August 5, 2014

Capitol Hill Langar Highlights Sikh American Community

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A woman dons a patka head cover during a Sikh langar, a group dinner of vegetarian fare. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:19 a.m. | While the week before August recess included some late nights for members of Congress, a few lawmakers and scores of staffers were able to take a break from the final votes to attend the first langar on Capitol Hill.

Langar is a 500-year-old tradition in the Sikh religion that emphasizes equality. Attendees sit on the floor and share the same meal, regardless of socioeconomic and racial divides.

“You hear about a faith, you hear about a set of values, but we want people to actually experience that and experience sitting next to whoever it is next to them, regardless of their background, and sharing a meal,” said Amrita Bamrah, one of the event’s organizers. 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

July 21, 2014

Ryan Shucard Case Highlights Gun Law Discrepancies

Staff in Rep. Tom Marino’s office are convinced that Ryan Shucard, the press secretary that arrived at the Cannon House Office building toting a 9 mm handgun on Friday morning, was not planning to harm anyone with the gun.

“No, not at all,” said Bill Tighe, chief of staff for the two-term Pennsylvania Republican, said when asked if staff thought Shucard had ill intentions. Capitol Police also indicated it was an accident, according to Tighe.

Tighe said he was not formally aware that Shucard, a resident of Alexandria, Va., owned a gun. Shucard was hired by Marino’s office in late May. Tighe said he did not know whether Shucard, 26, was registered, trained or permitted to hold a gun in Virginia, where gun laws are less strict than in the District. Full story

Muslim on Capitol Hill: Staffers Look to Rebuild

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Staffers participate in a Friday prayer session in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As rain pelted the capital, more than 200 Muslim Americans gathered in the Cannon House Office Building to break their daily fast.

They are in the midst of Ramadan, the annual monthlong period of fasting from sunup to sundown.

For the Muslim staffers and government employees gathered for a traditional dinner known as an iftar, the night was also a chance to connect with members of Congress and network with other D.C. professionals. “To have this iftar dinner and to do it here in the Capitol, where you belong, where we all belong, was a very smart thing to start,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told the crowd.

Although 200 participants was no small number for the July 10 celebration, the iftar in 2009 drew an estimated 1,000 people to the Hill, thanks in part to an active Congressional Muslim Staff Association. The group was formed in 2006 and regularly held networking events and briefings on the Muslim community.

A few years later, in the 113th Congress, the CMSA did not even list itself as an official association — due to a turnover in leadership, lack of participation and what some regarded as a backlash against Muslim staffers. While the organization is taking steps to re-register as an official association, it is definitely in rebuilding mode.

Former CMSA members are optimistic the staff association will make a comeback as younger staffers step into leadership roles, but there’s a broader problem: attracting young Muslims to Capitol Hill in the first place.

Full story

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