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Entries in Capitol Hill (28)

Sunday
May122013

Celebrating Moms on Capitol Hill

ABC(WASHINGTON) -- A special Mother’s Day edition of ABC’s This Week gave a glimpse inside an exclusive club on Capitol Hill: women who give birth while serving in Congress.

Rep. Jaime Hererra Beutler, R-Wash., who recently announced her pregnancy, will become the ninth woman to have a baby while serving in Congress. Although Washington is known for its partisan divide, Beutler said babies can bring both parties together.

“The fun thing is, babies aren’t partisan,” Beutler said. “So even folks who we do not agree on policy, are so excited because they recognize that this is a great thing.”

Several women in Congress balance the roles of mother and elected official. Before announcing her pregnancy, Rep. Beutler reached out to Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., mother to 4-year old Joaquin, for advice.

 “Probably the best piece of advice I give to women who are trying to juggle career and family is you really have to learn to be forgiving of your own self,” Sanchez told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “When you have a lot of balls in the air, this is what I tell women, inevitably, one or two are gonna fall. And you can’t beat yourself up about it.”

Women currently hold 98 of the 535 seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., – the first woman to give birth twice while serving in Congress – said the female lawmakers rely on one another for support.

“There’s some days that I think, ‘Okay, I have this figured out.’  And then the next day it feels like it’s all fallin’ apart,” Rodgers said. “And that’s where it’s good to be able to talk with other working moms on Capitol Hill that understand, that can relate to you, and give you those words of encouragement.”

The women said there are many unique challenges that come with being a working mom in Congress – including picking up their children from school between Congressional votes and flying back to their home districts with young children in tow.

But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., mother of two, believes motherhood gives them a unique perspective in Washington, and encouraged more women to seek public office.

“I want more women in government. I want more women members of Congress,” Gillibrand said. “Because even though we shouldn’t have to be the bearers of these issues, we passionately are, because we see it. We see the challenge every day.”

On this Mother’s Day, the congresswomen also reflected on their own mothers, and said that much has changed since the days when their moms were raising families.

Rep. Sanchez called the difference “night and day.”

“My mom was a mother to seven children. She was a stay-at-home mom,” Sanchez said. “I think she should be sainted. She went back to night school, earned her degree and became a teacher.”

“What they’ve accomplished, and frankly what all the women who come before us have accomplished, makes everything that we do possible,” Gillibrand added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr162013

Republican Senator Receives Potentially Poisoned Letter

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- A suspicious letter, potentially laced with the poison ricin, was sent to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, ABC News has learned.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed to ABC News that Capitol offices were on high alert. He referred questions to Capitol Police.

Two sources confirmed the letter was sent to Wicker, R-Miss., but did not arrive at his office on Capitol Hill. It was stopped at a mail processing facility.

According to Terrence Gainer, the Senate Sgt. at Arms, the letter was postmarked in Memphis, Tenn.

Wicker's Dirksen Capitol Hill office is closed for the evening, as it is after office hours.

Aides in Wicker's office emphasized that at no point did the senator's office evacuate or close because of the threat.

"Once we get information from Capitol Hill police, we will send out more," an aide to Wicker said Tuesday evening.

Wicker came to the Senate in 2007 after more than a decade in the House. He was appointed by then-Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

The reports of a poisonous letter rekindled memories from 2004, when ricin was found in the office mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee. In the weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters containing anthrax were sent to Capitol Hill, which prompted major changes in security and screening protocol of all mail.

Senators were made aware of the letter sent to Wicker on Tuesday night during a closed-door briefing about the Boston attacks. The Senate Sergeant at Arms, Terrance Gainer, warned senators about the letter and outlined a series of precautionary steps to be taken, including the suspension of mail to the Senate.

A senior Senate official told ABC News that authorities had identified and were interviewing a person of interest – someone who frequently writes letters to members of Congress. There were no injuries, but the senior official said the event was being treated as “totally real.”

Members of Congress were also taking extra security steps at their district offices in their home states.

“It rarely gets to the member before it goes through a lot of staff,” said Flake, the Arizona senator. “That’s a big concern obviously for all of us. So we are very anxious to get more details on this.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, on Capitol Hill, declined to comment Tuesday night on the suspicious letter.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec302012

Ominous Senate Prayer: ‘Save Us From Self-inflicted Wounds’

Photo Courtesy: Architect of the Capitol(NEW YORK) -- The Senate opened its first session Sunday in the days between Christmas and New Years since 1962 with an ominous prayer, as Congress and President Obama scramble to come up with a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“Let us feel your presence today on Capitol Hill,” Senate Chaplain Barry Black prayed, opening up the day in the Senate. “As we gather with so much work undone, guide our lawmakers with your wisdom. Lord, show them the right thing to do and give them the courage to do it.”

With just a matter of hours before the nation goes over the so-called fiscal cliff without a deal, Black prayed for “shelter” in the “midst of the storm, regardless of how high the waters rise,” for the legislators.

“When they feel exhausted, remind them of the great sufficiency of your grace, look with favor on our nation and save us from self-inflicted wounds,” he said.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., appeared on the Senate floor moments later, giving no update on the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., noted on the Senate floor that it takes a “crisis of major proportion” to meet in the days between Christmas and New Years.

The so-called fiscal cliff is a package of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts that will be triggered Jan. 1 if lawmakers cannot come up with a deal to cut the deficit.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul172012

Women Get Short Straw for Pay on Capitol Hill

(File Photo) Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Testifying on Capitol Hill as a woman can be tough. But being a woman working for the Republican leadership can also be tough -- on your pocketbook.

Men who work for House Republican leaders -- as chiefs of staff, legislative aides and in other jobs -- earned an average of $68 more per day of work than women in the House GOP leadership, according to 2011 salary data analyzed by the non-partisan Legistorm. That means men earn about $24,000 more per year than women within the House's Republican leadership. The gender pay gap in the Democratic House leadership was about $1,500 yearly.

In the Senate, the gap was even larger. Men working for the Senate GOP leadership earned, on average, $73 more for each day they worked than females in the GOP's Senate leadership, or about $27,000 more per year, according to the analysis, which was first reported by the National Journal. Female staffers in the Democratic Senate leadership earned about $5,000 less than men.

"Nowadays women are as equal as men, they are equally as smart as men and we know in Washington, D.C. they are equally interested in politics, so if you find a gap, it's cause for concern," said Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Legistorm founder and president Jock Friedly said the data showed that when men and women held the same job title, they made "relatively the same amount." The issue, he said, stems from promotions.

"Many more men were making it into the higher ranks on Capitol Hill, and therefore overall pay for men was much higher than for women," Friedly said.

When taken together, women held fewer senior positions and thus had lower pay. But there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. For example, the highest ranking Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has a female chief of staff.

And for four years the highest ranking person in the House was a woman, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"When I was speaker, I was the highest-paid person on Capitol Hill, and women took great joy in that," Pelosi said at a news conference in May. "But I can't speak to what the Senate -- it's, needless to say, it's another world."

The Senate has never been led by a woman.

Both parties are guilty of this promotion gap, but it is much more prevalent among Republicans, where all male staffers earned about $10,000 more on average than female GOP staffers in both chambers. There are four times as many male chiefs of staff in Republican offices than there are female chiefs of staff. Democratic chiefs of staff are split fairly evenly down gender lines, with 184 men and 135 women.

But while women on Capitol Hill seem to be getting the short straw on pay, they are still doing better in Congress than in their private-sector counterparts. Nationwide, women earn about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That is a wider gap than on Capitol Hill, where the Legistorm analysis showed women make 86 percent as much as men.

Hegewisch argued Congress does better on than the private-sector on gender pay gaps because of the transparency of Congressional salaries.

Congressional staff salaries are a matter of public record, a fact that Hegewisch said reduces inequalities in bonuses or pay raises. She said the smaller pay gaps in Congress could also be due to the overall lower pay of Congressional staffers.

While CEOs and vice presidents of public companies, only about 16 percent of whom are women, can make millions, the chiefs of staff in Congressional offices earn around $150,000.

"I think very few people deliberately discriminate," Hegewisch said.

But, she said, since every Congressional office sets its own rules for pay structures and promotions, the process is "pretty deregulated, and the more deregulated the process is the more likely you are going to get some kind of discrimination."

"Even our Congress people, that should be fair and above it, they all have different rules and different preferences and then discrimination creeps in," Hegewisch said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

Capitol Hill Burglaries Under Investigation

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After a number of Capitol Hill offices have fallen victim to a crime wave of burglary and theft this spring, the U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate who might be responsible, leaving congressional staffers on high alert and clamping down on their personal belongings and office equipment.

At least five congressional offices, all on the House side of the Capitol, were broken into last month, with most of the break-ins suspected to have occurred after office hours when the workplace was empty.

Among the victims, Rep. Jon Runyan, a freshman Republican from New Jersey, who was targeted twice in back-to-back weeks. Sources close to Runyan say that in the first instance a personal Burberry scarf was lifted from the congressman’s personal office. A staff member’s jacket was also stolen from a common area of the office, in addition to various knickknacks from office desks, and about $10 to $20 in coins. When burglars came back a week later, a Flip camera and a Canon digital camera were also stolen.

In the office of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., the perpetrator also took alcohol, including some “commemorative” wine bottles in the office and other items like autographed baseballs. Staffers were also disappointed to learn that a 30-year collection of commemorative eggs autographed by numerous presidents of the United States from the White House Easter egg roll was stolen. Everything burglarized from Lewis’s office was taken from staff areas, except for a baseball that Whitey Ford autographed, which was taken from a display cabinet in the congressman’s personal office.

Staffers working for the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform also had cash stolen from their desks. The Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security was also reportedly targeted for theft.

At the office of Rep. Trey Gowdy, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, thieves broke in April 11 and stole valuable electronics, including a 27″ Apple Cinema display monitor, valued at $999; a Canon EOS Rebel XS camera, valued at $479; a Nikon camera, valued at $270; and various office supplies.

According to the members’ handbook, lawmakers are held personally accountable for any thefts from their offices. Once a police report is filed, the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer [CAO] investigates the theft with the help of the U.S. Capitol Police.

In a Dear Colleague letter responding to the thefts sent to all offices in the House of Representatives, the committee on House Administration announced that police have increased surveillance and patrols and asks that all offices “remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity to the USCP Criminal Investigations Section.”

In a letter obtained by ABC News, Daniel Strodel, the Chief Administrative Officer, wrote Gowdy May 4 to inform him that the CAO had “completed its investigation regarding the Apple Monitor reported stolen” and he was liable to send a personal check for $763.63 to the United States Treasury.

The letter, which is described as standard operating procedure, also informed Gowdy of his right to appeal for a waiver from the Committee on House Administration, which the congressman quickly filed. Gowdy just learned Wednesday that he successfully won his appeal for a waiver.

Now, rather than having to pay out cash from his own pocket, the liability is transferred to the taxpayer, as the cost of replacing the equipment can be covered by a Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA], which is the budget authorized by Congress for each member in support of their duties to their constituents.

Congressional sources explain that the waiver is almost always granted as long as there is not proven negligence, and the liability rules are intended to bring accountability to a member’s office.

A source within Runyan’s office revealed that staff has since made it a habit to lock any personal items in their desks at the close of business, and the office also changed its cleaning schedule, moving from night cleaning when the office is empty, to an early-morning clean-up as the day is beginning.

Although the USCP won’t reveal whether they have any promising leads or suspects, congressional sources said that the practice is usually for a supervisor with a master key to unlock multiple offices at night to enable a team of custodial staff to move freely throughout the office buildings.

So how common are burglaries in congressional offices? With more than 10,000 employees at work every day on Capitol Hill, sources believe it’s not entirely uncommon.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who recently served for four years as speaker of the House, said that she is not aware of any instances of theft from any of her offices during her 25-year congressional career, but she said she would not be surprised if something has been taken over the years.

“I don’t think so, not that I’m aware of,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “But I’ve been here 25 years, so somebody must have. I don’t know if anything happened way back when, but nothing of any consequence.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr272012

Hollywood Stars Come to DC to Advocate Arts Funding

Steven Lawton/FilmMagic(WASHINGTON) -- Amid the budget cut stalemate unraveling in Washington, a handful of celebrities made their Capitol Hill debut on Thursday to advocate for increased funding for the arts.

Actor Tim Daly led the star-studded delegation on behalf of The Creative Coalition, a non-profit organization that advocates for the arts and entertainment.  Once a year, the group blitzes Washington to petition legislators to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), according to Daly, the president of the Creative Coalition.

Each actor in attendance shared a personal story about how the arts affected their home towns, their education and their lives, with true showbiz flair.

Los Angeles-bred actor David Arquette remembered how he struggled in school before finding a place in theater.

“I got distracted when I was younger,” Arquette told ABC News.  “The school play really focused me.  It’s given me a drive.”

The actor and producer will soon grace the small screen with his own show for the Traveling Channel, a project that has allowed Arquette to witness the ripples of American entertainment.

“It’s incredible to see the impact that American culture has around the world and how it’s still a huge influence.  And that’s something to be nurtured; it’s not something to be cut,” he said.

When the time came to visit lawmakers, the stars focused not only on the cultural benefits of the arts, but on its economic importance as well.

Richard Kind, star of the HBO series Luck, emphasized the industry’s power to stimulate the economy.  For every dollar spent by the NEA, according to The Creative Coalition, it reaps seven tax dollars, which was admittedly a surprise for the actor.

“I thought the arts were just there for enrichment of the soul,” Kind said.  “It can also enrich the economy.”

“Those are odds that you would take to Vegas, to the stock market any day of the week,” Daly said.  “We feel that to cut a program that is working so well would be foolhardy.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr132012

Nazi Party Gets First Lobbyist on Capitol Hill

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A member of the American Nazi Party has joined the ranks of lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

John Bowles, 55, said his official status as a lobbyist was something the 53-year-old party planned to “try out for the first time and see if it flies.”

“I always tell my fellow Americans that they need to practice their constitutional rights or their rights will one day be eroded,” he said. “Lobbying is one way to do that, to try to get your point across to the elected officials in Congress.”

Bowles said some of the key issues he hopes to speak with lawmakers about include ballot access, unemployment, immigration and budgets.

“I’m not going to go in and shove a swastika in their face,” he said. “I use a very careful and objective approach. There might be some congressmen who crumple up the paper and some who say, ‘this is interesting.’”

The newly minted lobbyist said he won’t use derogatory language and was open to working with all members of Congress.

“If they don’t hold my politics against me,” he said, “I won’t hold anything against them.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

Trayvon Martin Case: Lawmakers React to Zimmerman Charges

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For more than a month, a vocal contingent of members of Congress have repeatedly called for justice in the killing of Trayvon Martin. They’ve spoken out on the House floor, held news conferences and organized rallies to support the Florida teen’s family. Wednesday night, numerous lawmakers rejoiced at the news that the shooter, George Zimmerman, has been charged with second-degree murder in the teen’s death. Here is a compilation of some of the congressional reaction:

“It took 45 days, but finally, second-degree murder charges have been filed against the man who killed their son. That George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin is not in dispute. But letting him enjoy his freedom for 45 days was unconscionable,” Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., wrote in a statement. “Now, the American justice system will take its course.”

“State Attorney Angela Corey’s decision to file charges against George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin is a positive first step towards some closure on this tragedy,” Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., noted, adding that she believed there was sufficient evidence for an arrest. “There can be no happy ending in this story, but people need to believe that the system works fairly for everyone and this development is a good sign.”

“This is a step in the right direction towards restoring the public’s confidence in our system of justice. This also sends a clear message that shootings of unarmed individuals will be taken seriously,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, stated. “I am glad that wheels of justice have started to turn and I trust the right decision, as determined by a court of law, on the proper punishment for Mr. Zimmerman will be made. Now members of the legislatures, both state and federal, need to ensure that these laws are not used to cover the misdeeds of those who strike a person dead in the streets.”

“I, like many others, thought that an arrest based upon probable cause was not unreasonable,” Texas Democratic Rep. Al Green wrote in a statement. “Mr. Zimmerman now deserves a fair trial. I look forward to a just verdict after a review of the evidence.”

“The arrest of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin and the charges to be brought against him show that our criminal justice system is functioning,” Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., stated. “In this case, as in all others, the defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and it is important too that we let this case proceed in due course through the court system.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar072012

On Capitol Hill, Nick Cannon Talks Online Privacy for Children

Gary Gershoff/WireImage(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Music and television personality Nick Cannon appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday to endorse a bill aimed at increasing online privacy for children. Appearing at a press conference hosted by Representatives Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Tex., the entertainer said he was concerned about websites and smartphones storing information on young consumers without their knowledge or parental consent.

“Most at that age don’t have the judgment or the maturity to protect themselves from those capable of taking advantage of them by tracking their whereabouts on the Internet,” Cannon said, but he warned it was still a parent’s responsibility to teach the fundamentals of online safety.

“Parental supervision should extend from the playground to the Internet.”

Congressmen Markey and Barton are co-sponsors of the Do Not Track Kids Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that if passed by Congress would require the FCC to enforce strict guidelines limiting the ability of websites, cellular providers, or advertising agencies to use children’s personal data. Specifically, it would prohibit companies from tracking minors and restrict the use of ads targeted to children. It also introduces an “eraser button,” which would allow parents to remove information on their child already circulating the Web. The lawmakers are co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus.

Outside moral questions of targeted advertising, the lawmakers shared concern over the long-term ramifications of the data storage.

“Children are young and impressionable,” Markey said. “What they say or do online should not haunt them for the rest of their lives. Kids’ personal information can easily be turned and used without their knowledge or turned and used against them.”

The congressman used hypothetical examples to illustrate his point: A young girl bombarded by weight loss ads, or a 21-year-old being denied a job after photos surface of them engaging in underage drinking as a teenager.

“I need some of my online activity erased too,” Cannon later joked.

Cannon, who currently hosts NBC reality show America’s Got Talent, was picked up as a spokesman for Safe Communications, Inc., in February. Some of the company’s products are designed to filter children’s emails and texts for inappropriate content or unknown contacts.

The Do Not Track Kids Act is an amendment to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, an era the lawmakers were quick to point out came long before a wired generation raised on social media. A recent Consumer Reports survey says of the 20 million minors on Facebook, over a third are younger than 13, the minimum age to use the site.

The bill has slowly gained traction since it was first introduced to the House of Representatives in May 2011 but critics say the legislation is over-broad and unenforceable. Justin Brookman of the Center for Democracy and Technology says that if the bill were to pass, even general-purpose websites such as ABC.com would require a user’s credit card or other strong ID form to verify their age. He doubts it would stand up to scrutiny in federal court.

“It would be extremely expensive for companies to even try to comply with it, which might be technically impossible,” Brookman told ABC News. “Many services would probably just stop operating out of liability concerns.”

In an email interview, Brookman says the “eraser button” would cause the most difficulty given the complex landscape of the Internet.

“Data is so easily copied and repurposed you can’t reasonably expect permanent and persistent deletion of your record.”

Brookman says an easier approach would be wider protections for consumers regardless of age. The theme coincides with a recent call from the White House for a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Vice President Joe Biden Rallies for Jobs Bill on Capitol Hill

Joe Raedle/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden and a group of Senate Democrats rallied on Capitol Hill Wednesday with firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers for passage of the $35 billion piece of the jobs bill that is on the Senate floor this week.

“This is an emergency,” Biden told the crowd. “I say to the American people: Watch your senator. Watch him or her choose. Are you going to put 400,000 school teachers back in classrooms? Are you going to put 18,000 cops back in the street and 7,000 firefighters back in the firehouses? Or are you going to save people with average incomes of $1 million a one-half of one-percent increase in tax on every dollar they make over a million?”

Moments later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that Democrats are “going to make sure there is a vote on our bill this week.”

Reid will file cloture Wednesday night on the bill, which sets up a Friday vote in the Senate before it adjourns for a week-long recess next week.

“Real people will get real relief right now,” the vice president said of the bill, which has little chance of passing in the Senate.

Biden slightly toned down rhetoric he used Tuesday at the University of Pennsylvania, but continued to mock the Republicans’ claim that the jobs bill is only a temporary solution.

“There’s nothing temporary about kindergarten being eliminated because it has an effect in that child the rest of their life,” Biden said. “There is nothing temporary about the child that gets 20 percent less attention in the early years of class because class size has increased by 20 to 30 percent. There is nothing temporary about the life saved in a home invasion or a robbery because a squad car is able to get there in five minutes and not in 30 minutes. There’s nothing temporary about that for real, live people.”

Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., echoed that sentiment, quipping, “I’d like to ask my friends in the Republican side of the Senate, who are all against us, one basic question: What would you think if you dialed 911 and a billionaire answered the phone? When we dial 911, we want these men and women standing behind me answering that phone, the call of duty, risking their lives for us every day. We want to make sure those teachers are there for our children and grandchildren. We’re not here to protect millionaires; we’re here to protect America.”

Biden noted that Republicans are against the bill because of the way proposed to pay for it: a 0.5-percent surtax on people earning more than $1 million. But Biden said it should not be a hard choice for anyone to make given the teachers and first responders who need jobs now. He attempted to put it into perspective for the crowd.

“It doesn’t affect anybody who makes $999,000,” Biden said. “It doesn’t affect anybody who makes $999,900.99.  And even when it affects the guy who makes $1,000,001, it only affects that $1.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio