Entries in Capitol (12)


Hemp Flag Will Fly Above Capitol for Fourth of July

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Fireworks won’t be the only thing flying high over the Capitol during the Fourth of July celebration.

An American flag made of hemp, a non-psychoactive variant of marijuana, will be flown over the Capitol on July 4 for one day.

Industrial hemp – which is considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be a Schedule I substance along with ecstasy and heroin – is a type of cannabis plant that cannot legally be grown in the U.S. but is legally imported and used in hundreds of products ranging from rope to clothing.

Advocates say the plant has been unfairly demonized by drug regulators, even though it actually contains very little THC, the psychoactive chemical in its cousin plant, marijuana.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. – who authored an amendment to the Farm Bill which passed the House and would allow industrial hemp research in states where it is legal – sponsored the hemp flag through the Capitol Flag Office, which allows members to request specific flags be flown over the Capitol building.

This will be the first time in more than 80 years that a flag made from hemp will fly over the Capitol, according to The Atlantic.

“Many of our founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp,” Polis said. “Many of the very first American flags were made from hemp cloths. So there’s a real tie-in to our countries history and the important role industrial hemp played in agriculture in our country.”

The first American flag made by Betsy Ross was made from industrial hemp.

Colorado hemp-advocate Michael Bowman gave the flag to Polis as a prop to be used during Polis’ floor speech which then sparked his idea of flying it over the Capitol.

“I was on my way from the office building to the House gallery,” said Bowman. “I looked up and saw the flag flying over the Capitol, and I wondered, what if we put a hemp flag there?”

Per Capitol rules, flags flown over the building must be made in America.

Although growing hemp in the U.S is illegal under federal law, the hemp flag was grown in Colorado, which recently legalized the cultivation of the plant.

“It’s an important symbol, I think, to connect where we came from with regard to hemp and where we are going in the future,” said Bowman.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Kirk Completes Stair Climb to Capitol on First Day Back in Senate

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., 45 steps awaited him upon his return to the Senate for the first time since his stroke last January.

Kirk slowly climbed the steps to the Capitol, a trip that took about 10 minutes total including three stops – the first to greet Vice President Joe Biden, and then Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

“Welcome back, man,” Biden exclaimed as Kirk ambled up the first few steps.

With Manchin and Biden bracing him, Kirk continued his walk up the Capitol steps, stopping halfway to wave to colleagues from the House and Senate who had lined up along the steps for the monumental walk and more than a hundred people gathered on the plaza.

When Kirk reached the top, the crowd burst into applause and cheers for a man who has spent the past year learning how to walk again.

Kirk took to Twitter shortly after his stair climb to thank those who have supported him.

Last January doctors determined Kirk had suffered an ischemic stroke after finding a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck. Kirk underwent surgery to reduce swelling around his brain and has gone through rehabilitation over the past year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Passes 'Cliff' Deal, House to Vote

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Two hours after a midnight deadline for action, the Senate passed legislation early New Year's Day to avert the so-called fiscal cliff with an overwhelming vote of 89-8.

Senate passage set the stage for a final showdown in the House, where a vote could come as early as Tuesday.

"While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay," President Obama said in a statement shortly after the vote.

"There's more work to do to reduce our deficits, and I'm willing to do it. But tonight's agreement ensures that, going forward, we will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans."

The bill extends Bush-era tax cuts permanently for individuals making less than $400,000 per year and couples making less than $450,000 but allows the top marginal tax rate on incomes above those levels to rise to 39.6 percent.

Capital gains taxes would rise to 20 percent from 15 percent.

The measure would raise the estate tax from 35 to 40 percent for estates larger than $5 million, prevent the alternative minimum tax from hammering millions of middle-class workers and extend unemployment benefits for one year.

Lawmakers also decided at the last minute to use the measure to prevent a $900 pay raise for each member of Congress due to take effect this spring.

The steep "sequester" budget cuts scheduled to go into effect with the New Year -- a $1.2 trillion hit to defense and domestic programs -- would be postponed for two months.

"I've said all along our most important priority is protecting middle-class Americans. This legislation does that," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), said early this morning prior to the vote.

The deal at hand does little to address the nation's long-term debt woes, however, and does not entirely solve the problem of the "fiscal cliff."

Indeed, the last-minute compromise -- far short from a so-called grand bargain on deficit reduction -- could set up a new showdown on the same spending cuts in two months amplified by a brewing fight on how to raise the debt ceiling beyond $16.4 trillion. That new fiscal battle has the potential to eclipse the "fiscal cliff" in short order.

Reid said he is "disappointed" they were unable to achieve a broader deal but that the compromise was necessary.

"We tried," he said. "If we did nothing, the threat of a recession is very real."

Speaking after Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), called the deal an "imperfect solution" and noted this should not be the model on how things get done in the Senate.

McConnell also thanked Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Capitol Hill late Monday night and brokered the deal with Senate Republicans.

The measure must now move to the Republican-led House.

Five Senate Republicans and three Democrats voted against the plan, but the large margin of passage was seen as boosting the bill's prospects in the House, even though fiscal conservatives were poised to vehemently oppose the deal when it comes to the floor for a vote.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said the House would not vote on any Senate-passed measure "until House members, and the American people, have been able to review" it.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California issued a statement saying of the Senate bill that she "will present it to the House Democratic caucus," throwing her support behind the compromise.

Hours before the deadline, Obama, Biden and their aides were at work in the White House, and lights burned in the House and Senate. Democrats complained that Obama had given away too much in agreeing to limit tax increases to incomes exceeding $400,000, far above the $250,000 level on which he campaigned.

A late-night visit to Capitol Hill by Biden helped to convince Senate Democrats to get behind the plan.

"There is a feeling that it's not that this proposal is regarded as great or as loved in any way, but it's a lot better than going off the cliff," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.), called the compromise the "best" that could be done.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Senators Stop Work To Watch "Lincoln" with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Grab the popcorn: It's movie night in the Senate.

The Senate has taken an official recess from floor debate for a few hours to screen the movie Lincoln in the Capitol Visitors Center within the Capitol complex.

Appearing with director Steven Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis on Capitol Hill Wednesday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that he hopes the message of the movie with resonate with senators and the American people.

“I hope everybody who shared his anti-political mood will go out there and see Lincoln. The movie portrays a nobility of politics in exactly the right way,” Reid said.

All senators and their spouses were invited to Wednesday night’s special screening. Without mentioning the fight over the fiscal cliff going on within the halls of Congress as the clock clicks closer to a deadline, Reid said Wednesday’s screening is an opportunity for “bipartisanship,” among the members.

“For me, it’s what I work with every day but it’s good the American people have seen or will see what the great Abraham Lincoln did to get things done,” Reid said. “It’s remarkable.”

Spielberg said he was honored to show his movie in the Senate and to be able to see ‘”both sides sitting in the same room watching a president put the people out in front of the abyss.”

Because even senators need snacks, a special waiver was granted via a floor vote by the Senate Rules Committee to allow popcorn in for the screening.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Late Sen. Inouye to Lie in State in Capitol Rotunda

Daniel K. Inouye, Senator for Hawaii(WASHINGTON) -- The late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, a source with knowledge of plans tells ABC News. It is one of the highest honors Congress can bestow on an individual.

There is no date set for this rare honor yet, Hill sources say.

On Tuesday, one day after his passing, Sen. Inouye’s desk in the U.S. Senate was draped in a black cloth, Hawaiian ceremonial kukui nut beads and adorned with a vase full of white roses in tribute.

The day started with a moment of silence for the senator and the Senate Chaplain Barry Black prayed for the “beauty of his well-lived life.”

That life and remembrances – from the serious to the lighthearted – from senators on both sides of the political aisle monopolized most of the Senate floor time Tuesday. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., spoke about how Inouye never seemed to break a sweat, literally. When others at an extremely hot outside event were dripping in sweat, Inouye was cool as a cucumber, Durbin recalled.

“He says, you know, ‘the Asian religions are very important in my life, and they believe that mind over matter can achieve great things, and can I visualize myself sitting in a deep freeze now. I’m not hot at all.’ I thought this man is amazing in so many different ways what he has done with his life.”

Many described the late senator as humble, some noting that he didn’t even hang pictures of himself nor his accomplishments over the years in his Senate office – a rarity among Senate personalities and egos.

“He was exactly the opposite of all the caricature pictures people have of Congress today, and particularly about the rabid partisanship and personal incivility,” Sen. Lieberman, I-Conn., said, “Dan was a great gentleman, and the most civil of people, the kindest and most decent of people.”

Senate Minority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., said he was “never drawn to fanfare,” which always made him a “different kind of senator.”

“Dan’s quiet demeanor and strict adherence to an older code of honor and professionalism made him a stranger to controversy throughout his many decades in public office,” McConnell said, “He was the kind of man, the kind of public servant, in other words, that America has always been grateful to have. Especially in her darkest hours, men who lead by example and expect nothing in return.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah., praised Inouye’s career before he even came to Congress, calling his military service “the stuff of legend here in the Senate and throughout the country.”

Inouye was a decorated war hero who lost his arm in battle. In 2000 Inouye was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Europe in World War II.

“While he and I often found ourselves on different sides when it came to issues, I always knew him to be a man of principle and decency,” Hatch said, “and I never doubted his commitment to the people of his state and to doing what he believed was right.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recalled that Monday Inouye’s last word was "aloha,” meaning hello, goodbye and I love you.

“It’s with a heavy heart that those of us who love Senator Inouye say aloha to a great man, a legend of the Senate and his final dying word, Mr. President, was ‘aloha.’ It didn’t mean goodbye. It meant 'I love you.' And Senator Inouye, I love you.”

Inouye was 88 years old when he died. He had been in office since Hawaii became a state in 1959. He became Hawaii’s senator in 1962, three years after the state joined the United States. He was the longest-serving sitting senator and the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan Gets Hero’s Welcome At Capitol Homecoming

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan received a warm welcome from his GOP colleagues when he made his first return to the Capitol since Mitt Romney chose him as his running mate last month.

After arriving at the Capitol, Ryan spent about an hour meeting with House Republicans in Speaker John Boehner’s office suite. Lawmakers attending the meeting said Ryan stood in the room, greeting colleagues excited to meet with their now-famous friend.

Ryan, R-Wis., emerged from the speaker’s office with House Speaker John Boehner, and walked through Statuary Hall.

“It feels great to be back,” Ryan said walking next to Boehner. “It’s great to be here.”

Asked what he told his Republican friends during the meeting, Ryan answered, “I miss them.”

The duo moved across Statuary Hall amid a giant scrum of reporters and photographers. Once he entered the House chamber, Ryan was greeted with cheers and applause.

Ryan returned to the Capitol to vote on a continuing resolution, which the House passed Thursday, and a bill to replace the “defense sequester” -- half a trillion dollars of defense cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told reporters that Ryan’s presence would be felt, and Republicans have the votes to pass both bills.

“Chairman Ryan, people look to his votes no matter what is on the board because of his intellect and they know he studies policy,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “The CR is going to pass.”

Rep. Cory Gardner, a freshman from Colorado, told ABC News that Ryan told them he and Mitt Romney intend to win this fall.

Another GOP freshman, Rep. Bobby Schilling, said he told Ryan “I was proud of him” and said “it was pretty cool that he was the pick.”

“It’s kind of humbling to have him come back, say hi to us, but it’s very exciting to see one of our colleagues as the VP candidate,” Schilling, R-Ill., said.  ”I’m pretty excited because he can articulate very well, seniors, young folks, and I think he’s got a message and I don’t think that when it comes to him and Biden, I mean it’s going to be a clear, crisp difference.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama, Occupy DC Attend Alfalfa Dinner

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama attended the 99th annual Alfalfa Club dinner Saturday evening. Comprised of a who’s who of Washington elite, the social club’s sole purpose is to meet every January for a night of banquet festivities for its roughly 200 members. Per tradition, each sitting president is invited to deliver remarks at the event.

First Lady Michelle Obama accompanied her husband to the gala, held this year at the Capitol Hilton.

As is typical of the gathering, press was not allowed into the dinner, but details of the event usually leak out to the public over time.

The Alfalfa Club was founded in 1913 for the District’s movers and shakers to do what an alfalfa plant does: anything for a drink.

It would not admit black members until the 1970s and had its first women join as late as 1994 after then-President Bill Clinton boycotted the previous year’s dinner.

Held on the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, at the 2009 dinner President Obama commented on the occasion’s ties to the Civil War figure.

“If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused,” he said.

Washington’s elite weren’t the only attendees.

Hundreds of Occupy DC protesters staged a rally outside the event, demonstrating against the perceived injustices of the city’s power brokers and heckling a number as they arrived, including Senator Joseph Lieberman.

The Connecticut lawmaker was showered in glitter as he approached the hotel. At one point during the rally female protesters even took their shirts off as a taunt to police.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Did 'The Onion' Go Too Far? Capitol Evacuation Story Prompts Police Response

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The satirical newspaper The Onion may have gone a little too far with their “reporting” Thursday morning, causing the Capitol Hill police to get involved.

The first tweet, with a hashtag of #CongressHostage, sent out at 10:33 a.m. said, “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building.”

That was followed by a second, more disturbing tweet at 10:44 a.m.: “BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen. #CongressHostage."

It wasn’t a case of hacking. It was done on purpose.

“It’s just The Onion’s usual satire, you’ll see it unfold,” said Anne Finn, a spokeswoman for The Onion, who also apologized for any confusion.

The magazine also posted a story on its website, explaining in greater detail that during the fake “hostage situation,” House Speaker John Boehner told FBI negotiators that Congress needed $12 trillion.

“House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has emerged as spokesman for the bipartisan group, informed FBI negotiators that the legislative body’s demands would be issued within the next hour, and that if any attempt is made to stage a rescue ‘all the kids will die,’” the satirical story said.

Given the sensitivity around the safety of the U.S. Capitol, the reports prompted the Capitol Hill police to issue a statement underlining that there is no credibility to the reports.

“It has come to our attention that recent twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol,” Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting.”

The online version of The Onion’s report also included a rather shocking Photoshopped photo of Boehner holding a semiautomatic pistol to the head of a school girl outside the Capitol steps. Another unidentified man in a suit wears a ski mask and holds a rifle.

Though the The Onion is known to often write provocative stories, some readers wondered if the paper took its satire too far this time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Page Program Ends After Almost 200 Years

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly 200 years since its inception, congressional leadership ended the historic and occasionally scandal-ridden House Page Program Wednesday because of budget cuts and technological advances that have rendered the pages' duties obsolete. So, the 72 high school juniors who annually descend on Washington with their navy blazers and 3.0 or higher GPAs to live, study and discover the workings of the United States Congress are now a thing of the past.

While it seems that Republicans and Democrats in Congress can agree little on anything nowadays, this decision was announced in a joint statement by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in early August. It hinged largely on an independent review of the program, conducted by Strategic Assets Consulting and Fieldstone Consulting, Inc., which estimated the total annual cost of the program at over $5 million and the annual cost of educating each of the 72 pages at around $80,000 (a figure greater than tuition at preparatory school and the majority of colleges).

"We have a great appreciation for the unique role that Pages have played in the history and traditions of the House of Representatives," the joint statement reads. "This decision was not easy, but it is necessary due to the prohibitive cost of the program and advances in technology that have rendered most Page-provided services no longer essential to the smooth functioning of the House. Although the traditional mission of the Page Program has diminished, we will work with Members of the House to carry on the tradition of engaging young people in the work of the Congress."

It was money that eventually did in the program, which had survived high-profile scandals, like a sex scandal involving two congressmen in 1983 and the Rep. Mark Foley texting scandal in 2006.

The news has sparked strong opposition among scores of former House pages, many of whom now hold prominent positions in government. Four-term congressman Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., for example, penned a rebuttal letter on Aug. 22, urging Boehner and Pelosi to reconsider their decision.

The 27 other Democrats and one Republican lawmaker -- freshman Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania -- who signed Rep. Boren's letter conceded that the page program would likely have to be revamped to remain useful. However, the 29 House members insisted that these changes would be simple and feasible enough to merit the continuation of the historic program.

Specifically, the House members proposed either reducing or eliminating the salary that each page receives to ease the program's financial burden. They also suggested that the pages' job description be altered to adapt to technological advances and the current needs of Congress, that tours and special office projects might be a better use of the students' skills.

Former pages, who did not go on to become politicians, have taken to social media and the Web to voice their dissent as well. A new Facebook page has emerged, entitled "Save the Page Program," to organize protests and provide a forum for disgruntled alums. So far, 1,654 Facebook users have "liked" the page to join its community.

Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar and law professor at George Washington University who worked as a House page in the 1970s, took to his website on Aug. 9 with a sternly-worded post on the travesty of the situation.

"To say that former pages are furious is an understatement," Turley writes. "There are few institutions in this country as old as the page program. Moreover, these are members who have been gushing hundreds of billions of dollars abroad without any serious effort to bring three wars to an end. Billions have been reported stolen by the Karzai government and other governmental officials abroad. Yet, for the leadership has decided to kill this almost 200 year institution to save $5 million -- without even discussing the possibility of private support."

The page program's woes, Turley believes, could have been solved with a simple overhaul of its oversight -- alumni management and private funding, perhaps. However, for all of the push back the program's termination has received, the fact remains that -- without any consultation of House membership or page program alumni -- House leadership has officially made its decision.

Thus, as of Aug. 31, the storied opportunity for American youth to serve as messengers and couriers in the halls of Congress and on the House floor has unequivocally ended. A program almost 200 years old is now over because of tough economic times and the plain fact that electronic devices are more efficient at delivering messages than people. It was a ruling delivered to members of Congress, in a moment of poetic irony this August, by an email.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Faith Leaders Arrested in US Capitol During Protest

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Eleven faith leaders from a range of denominations were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda Thursday as they staged a protest urging Congress to pass a budget agreement.

Led by former Rep. Bob Edgar, D-Penn, and current president of Common Cause, the faith leaders kneeled on the floor of the Capitol Rotunda while praying and singing gospel hymns. Capitol Police evacuated tourists and press from the rotunda before arresting the protesters.

Police handcuffed the protesters with plastic ties and escorted them out of the rotunda.  Among the protesters was Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, who was sitting in a wheelchair for most of the protest but lifted out of it upon his arrest.

The faith leaders met with Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, prior to their protest.

“Talk about debt ceiling is dry and arcane.  What we need to do is make sure people understand that what we’re talking about here is the greatness of America and the prosperity in the broader sense of the American people,” Holt told the group before the protest.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio