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Posts in "Staffers"
August 14, 2014
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.
August 13, 2014
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
August 12, 2014
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.
August 5, 2014
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
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
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
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.
July 19, 2014
Ryan Shucard, the Capitol Hill aide who allegedly tried to bring a 9 mm handgun and magazine to work Friday, was released from police custody on Saturday afternoon after pleading not guilty to a felony charge for carrying a pistol.
Shucard exercised his Fifth Amendment right during his minute-long arraignment, standing silently beside his lawyer in khaki pants and a long-sleeved, collared shirt with shackles around his ankles and wrists. With no objection from the government lawyers working on the case, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher released Shucard with instructions to return to court on Aug. 7.
When the Colorado native entered the courtroom around 1:30 p.m., a blond woman began dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She was sitting next to a girl and man who later identified themselves as members of Shucard’s family. The trio followed Shucard out of the courtroom. Shucard, his family and his lawyer, Jason Kalafat, declined to comment to CQ Roll Call.
Shucard has been placed on unpaid leave from the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., where he had been serving as press secretary since May 2014. The University of Northern Colorado and George Washington University alumnus got his start on the Hill in October 2011 as a staff assistant for then-Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.
What might have provoked the incident, which resulted in Capitol Police arrested Shucard around 9:15 a.m. on Friday morning, remains unclear, but the confiscated handgun has been raising new questions about campus security.
An earlier version of this post misstated the date Schucard was instructed to return to court.
July 18, 2014
Capitol Police arrested a staffer for Rep. Tom Marino Friday morning on charges of carrying a 9mm handgun and magazine into the Cannon House Office building.
Ryan Shucard, the Pennsylvania Republican’s press secretary, was arrested around 9:15 a.m., according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider.
Shucard entered the southeast door of Cannon with the weapon. The Smith & Wesson 9mm and magazine were found during the search required for entry into the building, according to Schneider. People entering Cannon, including those with staff identification badges, like Shucard, are required to step through metal detectors and place bags on the belt of an X-Ray machine.
Shucard is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a felony. He is currently being processed at Capitol Police headquarters.
Schucard was immediately placed on unpaid leave from Marino’s office, chief of staff Bill Tighe told CQ Roll Call in a phone call. “That will last until we know more about the situation,” Tighe said.
July 16, 2014
Updated 12:43 p.m. | As chief spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, Pedro Ribeiro tried to keep the focus on the scandal-plagued executive’s governing achievements amidst allegations of corruption against Gray from Justice Department prosecutors.
Ribeiro’s Aug. 8th departure for a senior post at the Department of Homeland Security was announced in a Tuesday email to members of Gray’s cabinet and quickly made the rounds in local media after a Tweet from WUSA 9′s Bruce Johnson. The announcement lauded Ribeiro, known for his sometimes tough, passionate defense of Gray.
“Pedro has been a trusted and valued advisor and counselor to the Mayor and his entire senior team as well as an effective spokesperson who managed to disagree with the press when he had to without being disagreeable,” Gray chief of staff Chris Murphy said in the email. “We are sorry to see him go.”
Ribeiro has been with the mayor for nearly three years. In an interview with the Washington City Paper, he said being combative was part of the job and said, ”There are instances where I have been a dick, and I know it.”
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Ribeiro said that it was “part in parcel” of his job to defend the Gray administration in instances where they clashed with the federal government.
During the October 2013 federal government shutdown, Gray sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget declaring all the city’s workers essential, in an effort to avoid putting the jobs of roughly 32,000 District workers at risk of furlough. He also demanded a meeting with President Barack Obama to talk about the harmful impact of the budget stalemate on the city.
Ribeiro pointed out that Capitol Hill veterans who go to work for the administration often have to deal with the same conflicts between their boss and the president and said that on the “vast majority of policies,” Gray was pleased with where the federal government was going.
The White House has lured other prominent Gray administration officials to its ranks. In February, Harriet Tregoning, then-director of the D.C. Office of Planning announced she would resign to go to work for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Several deputies have recently departed the lame-duck mayor’s administration.
Ribeiro is being replaced by his deputy, Capitol Hill alumna Doxie McCoy. The former spokeswoman for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., will be promoted to Gray’s communications director.