Hundreds of members of Congress know how to legislate because Judy Schneider taught them.
The specialist tasked with explaining procedural rules to lawmakers, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Congressional Management Foundation on Friday.
Schneider spent almost four decades at the Congressional Research Service. Before that, she worked for the Senate Ethics Committee, a Senate select committee and the House Commission on Administrative Review.
“She was the one who got me going and taught me what I know today. I owe everything to Judy,” Rep. Dave Reichert said at CMF’s Democracy Awards. The Washington Republican was a winner too, honored in the “workplace environment” category.
Accepting an award for Sen. Rob Portman, staffer Emily Benavides said the Ohio Republican was “very impressed to be recognized alongside Judy Schneider, a 42-year Capitol Hill veteran.”
HOH sat down with Schneider to talk about how 9/11 changed Congress and how sledding could save the Hill.
Q: What’s missing for staffers?
A: Staffers would congregate more with each other. We didn’t need all of the, “Let’s have a staff association to do this.” We just kind of knew each other. We saw each other in the cafeteria or we saw each other at the shoe shine. I think we didn’t know what party people were. You were just, “so and so who was an [legislative correspondent].” You figured it out eventually, but if you liked the person, you liked the person. That’s why hallways were such a big deal.
There were hall parties. ... The week before Thanksgiving, there would be a party. There were always hall parties at Christmastime. There were always hall parties around the Fourth of July break. It didn’t make a difference who was on the hall.
Q: When did you start to notice Capitol Hill was changing?
A: The election of 2000, watching what happened in Florida, watching how long it look. The longer it took, the more people started getting, for lack of a better term, political. And we didn’t even have a chance to get over that when 9/11 came along.
Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. You got a different group of people that came to Washington. Social policy was what we worried about … all of a sudden it became military policy. Policy issues changed, and members who spend their careers on certain things found themselves having to pivot to other things.
Q: Has any recent event made you feel like Capitol Hill is the community it was when you first started here?
A: I want to say the response to the [2017 Steve] Scalise shooting, but I’ll tell you why I don’t want to say that. Everybody did outrage and everybody prayed for him, but I don’t know how bipartisan the visits to the hospital were. I don’t know except when he came back how many ran over and hugged him. Outrage is one thing. The death of Louise Slaughter. [Members said,] “Oh what a horrible thing. So sad.” Both of those events should have brought us back to that.
Probably the closest is when they finally allowed sledding back on the Capitol [in 2015], because both parties said it’s a good thing. It’s not a policy, but its one of the first times I saw both parties understand how important it is. [I’ve] gone down the West Front, except I didn’t use a sled. I used a tray from the Longworth cafeteria. But I was also much younger then.
Q: What makes you crazy?
A: People that take people out on [a Capitol] tour. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.” But I do have a favorite story, and it is an intern who was bringing through a bunch of visitors through the Cannon tunnel and showing off the artwork. I listened to the intern explain to the family that this is artwork done by children of members of Congress.
[Editor’s note: the artwork is done by high school constituents.]
Q: What’s your favorite office on Capitol Hill?
A: A former member from Illinois who had an office in Rayburn … on the wall behind the receptionist, was a full body oil painting of the member. Now, the member, the guy’s name was Ken Gray, and he was known for several things — his hair was very frizzy and it looked like a Brillo pad and he dressed like a, I don’t know, cartoon character. I mean orange suits with a green bow tie.
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House Republicans have abandoned a plan to vote on a Democrat-sponsored bill to terminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after the bill’s authors said they and their colleagues would vote against it.
But GOP leaders are still planning to hold a vote on a resolution by Louisiana GOP Rep. Clay Higgins expressing the House’s support for all ICE officers and personnel and denouncing calls to completely abolish the agency.
The vote on Higgin’s resolution will occur Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. It will be brought up under an expedited procedure known as suspension of the rules, which requires two-thirds support for passage.
The other bill Republicans had been planning a vote on would have terminated ICE within a year of Congress enacting “a humane immigration enforcement system” to be designed by a commission the legislation would establish. The measure was introduced Thursday by Progressive Caucus Co-chair Mark Pocan and members Pramila Jayapal and Adriano Espaillat.
McCarthy said “it was very shocking” they would introduce a bill and then turn around and say they’d vote against it after he offered to bring it to the floor for debate.
Pocan, Jayapal and Espaillat had said they’d vote against their bill because Republicans were going to bring it up for political messaging purposes, not actually with intentions to pass it. They said they stood by the policy.
McCarthy suggested that Higgins’ resolution accomplishes the same goal in putting Democrats on record on whether they want to abolish ICE.
Speaking minutes before McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise said he wasn’t sure what had been decided or scheduled regarding the two ICE measures but that he supported putting Democrats on record on the matter.
“I know there is a lot of concern about what the Democrats are saying about their interest in abolishing ICE,” the Louisiana Republican said. “I think it’s a radical idea. It seems like they’re having an internal fight over where they really stand on it.”
Asked if Democrats saying they wouldn’t vote against their own bill was a reason not to vote on that one, Scalise said, “It’s one thing for them to say that, but to vote against your own bill on the House floor looks like you’re just playing political games with our national security. And I don’t think that’s a responsible place to be.”
In a sign that the ICE messaging votes were still fluid, McCarthy had not mentioned either on his weekly schedule released Friday evening.
A GOP aide said discussion had continued into the weekend and a final decision on scheduling was made Monday.
But GOP leaders had been monitoring the abolish ICE movement for weeks. McCarthy had brought it up during a GOP conference weeks ago as something they should keep an eye on and during last week’s conference meeting floated the idea of a floor vote.
When the Progressive Caucus members released their bill Thursday, Scalise brought up the idea of voting on that specific bill in various meetings held that day.
Later Thursday McCarthy told reporters that the House would have a debate on the Democrats’ bill before the August recess.
Democrats reacted quickly to that news saying they would vote against the bill and turn the debate into a discussion on family separations at the border and lack of legislation to permanently address that.
Watch: Pence: Democratic Leaders Must Stop ‘Spurious’ Calls to Abolish ICE
Some rank-and-file Republicans had questioned the wisdom of holding the messaging votes on ICE, particularly after Democrats said they’d vote against their bill. But others felt it still would have been useful to have Democrats on record voting against a measure they introduced.
MJ Hegar, who is challenging Texas Rep. John Carter, outraised the incumbent nearly 4-1 in the most recent fundraising quarter, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
Hegar, a U.S. Air Force veteran, announced her campaign raised $1.1 million in the last fundraising quarter while Carter raised $265,725.
Hegar’s campaign said in a news release that $750,000 came in the 10 days after she released a video chronicling her experience in the military and facing sexism at the Pentagon.
In the ad, Hegar said Carter’s office told her that he was not able to help her when she was trying to lift a ban women serving in ground combat jobs because she was a woman because she wasn’t one of his donors.
Todd Olsen, a spokesman for Carter’s campaign, told Politifact that Hegar’s claims that she requested a meeting with Carter and that he refused because she was not a donor were “absolutely untrue.”
Hegar’s campaign also reported having $867,266 in cash on hand compared to Carter's $537,561 at the end of the quarter.
A news release from Hegar’s campaign said 94 percent of her donors were small donors.
“The thousands of people who are supporting our campaign show that it is time to show the door to politicians who care more about campaign donors and political parties than protecting our country,” she said.
But Hegar still has an uphill climb.
Carter won his last election in 2016 with 58.4 percent of the vote and his Democratic challenger only won 36.5 percent. President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the district by more than 12 points.
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A federal watchdog is recommending the Department of Health and Human Services recoup $341,000 associated with former Secretary Tom Price’s travel expenses.
The HHS Office of the Inspector General released Thursday an audit that found 20 of 21 trips Price and other HHS officials took during his time in office did not comply with federal requirements. Price, a hardline fiscal conservative during his time in Congress, resigned last September after it was revealed that he regularly chartered private planes for routine business trips.
The report suggests Price and his wife would have to reimburse the government for any of their personal travel taken on government aircraft that Price had not already repaid.
The 21 trips for Price and his staff cost taxpayers a total of $1.2 million, the OIG found, including “at least” $341,000 in wasteful spending. Price repaid nearly $52,000 for his seat on the planes and another $7,500 for bringing his wife on several trips.
The OIG found HHS often did not compare costs between taking chartered flights and commercial flights. When HHS booked chartered travel, the department occasionally did not use the lowest quoted price. For an Aug. 25 trip to Seattle, for example, HHS received one quote at $75,829, but booked another plane at $121,500.
OIG outlined a number of specific areas where HHS should “take appropriate administrative actions” to recoup spending. But HHS said it’s not clear that recouping the money is “legally appropriate” and that it’s continuing to review the matter.
OIG also recommended HHS institute better regulations and training for employees regarding business travel, to which the department agreed. Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, who served as acting secretary after Price’s resignation, said HHS has since established the “most rigorous controls on travel in the organization’s history.”
“Reviews like this are an important part of any organization’s efforts to ensure that best practices are being utilized,” Hargan said in a statement. “The department understands the auditor’s concern that the processes and record keeping regarding travel could have been more comprehensive, and, since the period examined by the audit, HHS has instituted new travel review procedures applicable to all political appointees.”
Hargan noted, however, that Price did not break the law.
“As a matter of law, none of the travel at issue was unauthorized,” he said.
Revelations about Price’s travel triggered investigations into irresponsible expenditures from other Trump cabinet members, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and former Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Scott Pruitt, who resigned last week.
Democrats reacted quickly to the HHS OIG report.
“This report confirms Tom Price’s role as the poster child for the rampant waste of taxpayer dollars that has occurred on Trump’s watch — all while he was pursuing dangerous policies that increase families’ premiums and weaken their health care,” said Finance Committee top Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon. “This unseemly saga is a reminder of why public officials need to be carefully scrutinized before the Senate places them in positions of enormous responsibility.”