congressional-operations

Members’ Dining Room Sheds Exclusivity, Welcomes Staffers
Further changes might be in store for the storied eatery

The painting and quote in the hallway where the previously members-only dining room is located on the House side. Starting on Tuesday, staff were welcomed in. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Members’ Dining Room in the House is getting much less exclusive. Starting Tuesday, the eatery is now open to Capitol Hill staff, not just House members and their guests.

“Beginning today … the [Bennett] Room of the Members’ Dining Room will open to all congressional staff. This includes employees of the House, Senate, Architect of the Capitol, Congressional Budget Office, and Library of Congress,” House Chief Administrative Officer Philip Kiko wrote in a letter.

Justice Department Issues Indictment for 2013 Congressional Trip to Azerbaijan
Feds allege nonprofit concealed that trip was funded by foreign government

A 2013 congressional delegation trip to Azerbaijan has resulted in an indictment being handed down to the head of the nonprofit, whom the government alleges concealed the source of funding for the journey. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Justice Department has issued an indictment of former non-profit head Kevin Oksuz for his role in a plot to hide the fact that a 2013 congressional delegation trip to Azerbaijan was funded by that country’s government.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed Monday, Kevin, also known as Kemal, Oksuz allegedly lied on disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics prior to, and following, a privately sponsored congressional trip to Azerbaijan. Oksuz ran a Houston based nonprofit that he is accused of using to funnel money to fund the congressional trip from an oil company controlled by the Azerbaijan government.

Location, Location, Location: Hearing With Kavanaugh's Accuser Could be in Tight Quarters (For Now)

Thursday's blockbuster hearing featuring Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser is scheduled to be in a tiny room, but that could change. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford are expected to testify Thursday in a tiny room before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  If the hearing is held in the small room as scheduled, there won't be much room for the public — including protesters — or reporters to watch the proceedings. But that could change. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on tap for Thursday is set to be in Dirksen 226, a small room that can accommodate lawmakers, a few staffers and a witness, but not much beyond that. The highly anticipated meeting is sure to draw enormous media attention and throngs of protesters.

Former Staffers Want to Fund Diverse Women for Hill Internships
New foundation’s goal is to fund 50 internships a year for young women

Sara Lonardo, left, and Elizabeth Whitney, right, both are former Capitol Hill interns. They teamed up to create the Women's Congressional Staff Foundation. (Photo courtesy Wynne Leahy)

All eyes are on women on Capitol Hill this week: How will those in the Senate vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination? What might his accusers say to affect his confirmation?

Behind the scenes, staffers work to keep the trains moving and their bosses informed. One group doesn’t think there are enough staffers from different backgrounds among them.

Kavanaugh Controversy and Violence Against Women Act Collide on Capitol Hill
Not the first time a Supreme Court fight and VAWA have been linked

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., hold a press conference with Holton-Arms alumnae in support of Christine Blasey Ford in the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh upended his confirmation process and brought sexual misconduct back into the spotlight on Capitol Hill. While the Senate Judiciary Committee digs into what happened more than 30 years ago, other lawmakers are working to extend and expand protections for victims under the Violence Against Women Act.

The competing claims from Ford and Kavanaugh have divided both the Senate and the country, with Ford accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers, and Kavanaugh issuing blanket denials and saying he welcomes the chance to “clear my name.” 

When Fried Pickles Lead to Better Policymaking
Ace program helps lawmakers build personal and working relationships

From right, Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr and California Rep. Jimmy Panetta visit a farm outside Lexington, Ky., during an exchange trip in June with the Bipartisan Policy Center. (Courtesy Bipartisan Policy Center)

OPINION — A California congressman, born in Mexico, introduces a Republican colleague in America’s heartland to traditional Mexican hibiscus water while attending a Cinco de Mayo festival, like the one he started in his home district. Within 24 hours, they receive a classified defense briefing nearby at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters. In ways both lighthearted and serious, that’s how relationships are built under the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Congressional Exchange program, or ACE.

Relationships are foundational. Just as it is hard to trust someone you don’t know, it’s also difficult to disparage a person with whom you’ve broken bread — or shared hibiscus water, eaten fried pickles or tasted olive oil on ice cream. And experiencing the world through the eyes and perspective of another is frequently illuminating.

Biden Urges Senators Not to Treat Kavanaugh Accuser Like Anita Hill
Biden was criticized as chairman of Judiciary panel after senators grilled Hill in 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Friday he regretted that Anita Hill was “villified” in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he chaired at the time and wished he had done more to prevent that . (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. urged his former colleagues in the Senate to treat Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser better than they treated Anita Hill in 1991 as she testified about how then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when they worked together.

“Anita Hill was vilified,” Biden told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday. “I wish I could have done more to prevent that.”

Kavanaugh Accuser’s Schoolmate Clarifies That There Was Incident ‘Buzz’
‘That it happened or not, I have no idea,’ former schoolmate of Christine Blasey Ford says

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has denied claims that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were in high school. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A former schoolmate of Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school, clarified Wednesday that she has no first-hand knowledge of the alleged attack.

“I do not have first hand knowledge of the incident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford mentions, and I stand by my support for Christine. That’s it. I don’t have more to say on the subject,” Cristina King Miranda tweeted Wednesday.

Russians Targeting Senate, Staff Personal Emails, Sen. Ron Wyden Warns
And the Senate sergeant-at-arms can do nothing to stop the cyber attacks — for now

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told colleagues that Russian hackers have been targeting senators’ and aides’ personal accounts and devices. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Ron Wyden implored his colleagues to enact legislation that would allow the Senate sergeant-at-arms to provide cyber protections to senators and staffers for their personal devices and accounts.

The Oregon Democrat warned Senate leaders that the state-backed Russian group responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 election, “Fancy Bear,” has also tried infiltrating the personal communications networks of senators and their staffers, including Wyden’s own aides.

Public-Facing Congressional Research Reports Site Launches to Criticism
crsreports.congress.gov went live on time, but with a number of shortcomings

A new Congressional Research Service website with public reports is now live. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress’ in-house research division has moved to make more of its reports public, as required by law, but the new website is already drawing criticism.

Under the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill, the Congressional Research Service had to publish all nonconfidential reports on a public website operated by the Library of Congress. The website went live Tuesday, meeting the deadline set by appropriators.