Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 22, 2014

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September 19, 2014

Construction Underway at D.C. Ukrainian Memorial

 Construction Underway at D.C. Ukrainian Memorial

Construction on the memorial began two weeks ago. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday to ask for more U.S. military aid in its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Less than a mile away, construction workers were busy building a memorial to victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America attempted to bring Poroshenko to the memorial site on the triangle of grass where North Capitol, Massachusetts Avenue and F Street meet next to Union Station.

However, Michael Sawkiw, the director of UCCA’s Washington office, said the president’s schedule did not have room for a visit to the area, but he told CQ Roll Call in a Friday phone interview that Poroshenko is scheduled to attend the dedication ceremony when the memorial is complete.

“We’re moving full steam ahead and we’re looking forward for a dedication sometime next year,” Sawkiw said. Weather permitting, the memorial will open in the late spring or early summer of 2015. Full story

Treaties Exhibit Ushers in 10 Years of American Indian Museum

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Indigenous leaders from the Cowboy and Indian Alliance participate in a Capitol Hill protest in April. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Museum of the American Indian will open its first exhibit exploring the contentious issue of treaties between the U.S. government and Indian nations next week.

“This exhibit is a tangible reminder of the federal government’s relationship with sovereign tribal nations of this country,” Senate Indian Affairs Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Thursday. “It’s also a reminder of the moral and legal obligations that the United States has to honor and uphold our treaties with Indian country.”

Tester addressed a group gathered at a day-long symposium at the museum discussing the exhibit. “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations” opens on Sept. 21, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the museum. The exhibit will continue until the fall of 2018.

Museum Director Kevin Gover said during a preview Tuesday the display was years in the making and came at the request of a number of tribes and members of Congress. Full story

September 18, 2014

Hill Staffers Hear Advice for Hiring Veterans

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Sen. Lindsey Graham greets wounded soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center as they arrive for a lunch in the Senate in April 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project addressed a group of Capitol Hill staffers in Dirksen Senate Office Building Thursday to offer suggestions for hiring wounded veterans and accommodating those veterans in the workplace.

Brett Sheets and Brian Nichols, veterans of the Army and Navy respectively, work for WWP’s Warriors to Work program, which provides career advice to wounded post-9/11 veterans transitioning to civilian life.

The two WWP representatives offered a number of recommendations for offices looking to hire veterans. Full story

September 17, 2014

Press Galleries Pushing McCarthy for ‘Pen and Pad’ Briefings

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McCarthy has expressed interest in reinstating the briefings. (By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Members of the Capitol Hill press corps are pushing for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to reinstate weekly “pen and pad” briefings to discuss the agenda, a tradition that ended with former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

The chairmen of the Periodical, Daily and Radio-TV press galleries submitted a letter to McCarthy Tuesday evening, urging him to bring back the weekly meetings and set a date for his first briefing in November, when Congress returns.

McCarthy spokesman Mike Long wrote in an email, “We’re reviewing the letter.” He did not know when the leader will respond to the request.

In their letter, Heather Rothman of Bloomberg BNA, Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal, and Frank Thorp V of NBC News pointed out that McCarthy has expressed interest in holding the briefings.

McCarthy told a group of reporters Monday that he is interested in holding pen-and-pad briefings but he has yet to formally respond to the media’s request for the meetings.

“These meetings are crucial to our ability to follow the agenda of the majority party of the House,” they wrote in the letter, which was shared with CQ Roll Call.

The leaders of the press corps also appealed to McCarthy’s own desire for transparency.

“You have listed ‘transparency in government’ as an ideal you strive to achieve,” they wrote, “and we believe interfacing regularly with the Capitol Hill Press Corps is an important step toward this goal.”

Cantor put an end to the weekly briefings in 2011. Since Cantor lost his primary and resigned, the press has been pushing to reinstate the briefings. In addition to the letter sent Tuesday, the chairmen issued a similar letter in July and also met with McCarthy’s staff to discuss the issue in August.

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September 12, 2014

CBO Announces YouTube Channel

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Elemndorf announced the YouTube channel in a blog post. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Can’t get enough of budget hearings? The Congressional Budget Office has you covered.

The CBO announced Friday that it is launching its own YouTube channel, which will showcase videos of congressional testimonies, media briefings and more.

“We consider the transparency and accessibility of our work to be basic values of the agency,” CBO Director Doug Elmendorf wrote in a blog post announcing the channel.

As of 4:30 p.m., the YouTube channel had 30 subscribers and had posted 15 videos posted, which all are of Elmendorf testifying to Congress about the budget outlook.

The YouTube channel is not the only social media platform for the CBO. The budget organization also has a Twitter account that lists more than 5,000 followers. The CBO also has a SlideShare account, which showcases documents regarding forecasts and press briefings, with more than 13,600 followers.

 

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September 4, 2014

Former Hill Aide, Assistant U.S. Attorney to Lead MLB Investigations Unit

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Roger Clemens, a former MLB pitcher, testifies at a 2008 congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo).

Bryan Seeley, a former assistant U.S. attorney in D.C., joined a different team Thursday. Seeley will now lead Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations as MLB’s vice president of investigations and deputy general counsel.

Seeley, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, will oversee the division, which focuses on investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs and other charges of MLB rules violations.

“Major League Baseball set out to reposition the scope, capabilities and efficiency of its Department of Investigations as its needs have evolved,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement announcing the hire. “Bryan’s multifaceted experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney will make him an invaluable resource for our game.”

Seeley worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. for the past eight years, most recently prosecuting white-collar crime in the Fraud and Public Corruption section. The litigator also has ties to Capitol Hill. Full story

August 13, 2014

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

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Attorneys for Prestage are negotiating with government officials in his Capitol Hill gun case. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

For the second time in less than a week, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed to delay a case involving a man carrying a gun to Capitol Hill.

Ronald Prestage — the South Carolina pork executive arrested by Capitol Police when they found a loaded semi-automatic pistol and magazine in his briefcase — was expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday. But the 11 a.m. hearing was not held.

Court documents state the government and defense are continuing negotiations, suggesting a plea deal might be possible. A federal ruling on D.C.’s gun policy may impact charges in the case.

On July 23, Capitol Police spotted a handgun in Prestage’s briefcase during an administrative search at the Rotunda door of the Cannon House Office Building. Police say the weapon, concealed in a black ankle holster, appeared to be “fully functional” and “capable of being fired by a single hand.” According to charging documents, Prestage told police at the time of the arrest that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. He does not have a permit to carry in D.C.

Prestage, president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, has been charged with a single count of possessing a gun outside a home or office, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.

Full story

August 4, 2014

Gene Callahan, Father of Rep. Bustos and Former Senate Chief of Staff, Dies at 80

Era Eugene “Gene” Callahan, father of Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and former chief of staff to the late Sen. Alan Dixon, passed away early Monday morning at the age of 80.

 Gene Callahan, Father of Rep. Bustos and Former Senate Chief of Staff, Dies at 80

Gene Callahan, courtesy of the office of Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.

Callahan was a staple in Illinois politics for more than 40 years. He began his professional career as a reporter, covering crime and politics, and also worked as a columnist.

He first foray into politics was as an assistant press secretary for Illinois Gov. Sam Shapiro, and he then went on to serve as press secretary for Lt. Gov. Paul Simon and worked as Simon’s chief of staff in the U.S. Senate. It was when he was working for Simon that Callahan developed a close friendship with Richard J. Durbin, the current Illinois senator and Senate majority whip.

“I never made an important decision in my political life without calling Gene,” Durbin said in a statement. “He was totally honest, painfully candid, and completely loyal. You knew that if the world turned on you, Gene would be the last person standing by your side.” Full story

July 30, 2014

The Calm Before the Pre-Recess Storm

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Rose, left, and McConnell went to spread the word about the “War on Coal.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As House and Senate leadership scrambled to reach agreements on legislation to address the Veterans Affairs backlog, reauthorizing transportation programs and the influx of Central Americans at the Southern border before they adjourned for recess, Barbara Halpern-Levin, wife of Sen. Carl Levin, paused calmly in the middle of the Capitol Crypt.

The Michigan Democrat’s wife was giving a tour of the Capitol to a relative visiting from Florida, and she provided a serene contrast to Wednesday’s back-door buzz. In a brief interview with CQ Roll Call, the senator’s wife said she would need to check her schedule before deciding whether to take the visiting relative to watch either chambers’ final votes.

Lawmakers noted the relatively calm atmosphere around the Hill, even as the House prepared to debate a resolution authorizing the chamber to sue President Barack Obama. Full story

July 17, 2014

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

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Massie is wading into the District’s gun laws. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of Congress’ most outspoken libertarians is the latest member to try to overturn the District of Columbia’s local gun laws. If successful, his proposal would make the District, home to cabinet officials, dignitaries from around the world and the president perhaps the most permissive gun jurisdiction in the country.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who in June rallied a bipartisan majority around an amendment to end warrantless collection of Americans’ online activities, attached language prohibiting D.C. from enforcing local firearm restrictions to the House bill funding the District.

“Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down the D.C. handgun ban, as well as the unconstitutional gunlock provision, it is still difficult for D.C. residents to exercise their God-given right to bear arms,” Massie said Wednesday on the floor. “Congress has the authority to legislate in this area pursuant to article I, section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to ‘exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever’ over the District of Columbia.”

In a move decried as an assault on Home Rule, Massie tried to wield that authority Tuesday night with a similar amendment, but the measure was ruled out of order due to a procedural flaw. To the outrage of Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council, he tried again on Wednesday and the House adopted the gun rider 241-181, with the support of 20 Democrats. Full story

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