capitol-hill

J. Brett Blanton on track to become next architect of the Capitol
Nominee was most recently deputy vice president for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

J. Brett Blanton, nominee to be architect of the Capitol, right, introduces his family to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., before the start of his confirmation hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Most of J. Brett Blanton’s nomination hearing before the Senate Rules Committee to be the next architect of the Capitol on Thursday was essentially a one-on-one public interview between him and Chairman Roy Blunt, as the remaining 18 members of the committee were absent for the majority of the hearing.

No opposition to Blanton, a Virginia resident, is evident, making him likely to be confirmed as the 12th architect of the Capitol. If confirmed, Blanton said he expects to start leading the agency by mid-January.

As Super Bowl LIV draws near, Congress still tackling one of the event’s biggest problems
Florida Rep. Donna E. Shalala leads human trafficking hearing ahead of the big game in Miami

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade County, flanked by Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, and Kathy Andersen, executive director of The Women’s Fund Miami-Dade, addresses the media in Miami on Nov. 6 as they unveil a campaign by local, state and federal agencies and partners meant to combat sex trafficking leading up to and beyond Super Bowl LIV. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

The question of whether the Super Bowl attracts higher volumes of human trafficking in its host city has long been debated. At the least, it provides a megaplatform, and opportunity, for awareness.

“We do have a comprehensive approach for Miami-Dade, and that’s been put together over the years, but the advantage of the Super Bowl for us is to educate the entire community,” Rep. Donna E. Shalala told HOH.

Congress poised to pass paid parental leave for federal workers
Could the measure spur wider action in the private sector?

A provision in the defense authorization bill expected to be passed by Congress would give all federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

About 2 million federal employees are about to be guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a bill soon to be signed into law by President Donald Trump, but several experts say the cost of such a benefit may discourage Democrats’ hopes of it spurring broader adoption in private industry.

The provision, folded into a defense bill months in the working, would give all federal civilian employees three months of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. Democrats originally pushed for a broader set of benefits to cover family relations and illnesses but praised the measure’s inclusion. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, touted the provision as “long overdue.”  

Sitting at ‘Desk 88’ with Sen. Sherrod Brown
Political Theater podcast, Episode 104

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown has a new book, “Desk 88,” about senators who have occupied his current workspace in the chamber. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrat Sherrod Brown was first elected to the House in 1992 and just won a third Senate term in 2018. Perhaps aware of the history that surrounds him and his own place in it, he has a new book out, “Desk 88.”

That is where he sits in the Senate, and the book is a series of portraits of the senators who sat there before, a list that includes Hugo Black, Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern.

Final defense authorization authorizes epic spending and puts guardrails on Trump
Agreement creates new branch of military with Space Force within Air Force

An F-35 flies past the U.S. Capitol dome in June. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A House-Senate conference committee has filed a $735.2 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2020 that creates a new branch of the military and erects guardrails to keep the president from straying too far afield in foreign policy.

According to a bipartisan summary of the bill by the House and Senate Armed Services committees made public Monday night, the measure would authorize $658.4 billion in so-called base budgets, mainly at the Defense and Energy departments, plus an additional $71.5 billion for overseas campaigns and $5.3 billion for disaster relief.

Photos of the Week
The week of Dec. 6 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

The Capitol Christmas Tree was lit on the West Front of the Capitol on Wednesday evening. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Christmas Tree shines bright amid grim impeachment proceedings
‘The Voice’ winner Chevel Shepherd warmed hearts despite cold temps

A band plays during a ceremony Wednesday to light the Capitol Christmas Tree, which is displayed on the West Front of the Capitol. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

We interrupt your regularly scheduled, bleak impeachment programming to bring you a brighter alternative. 

As the House Judiciary Committee wrapped up its first contentious hearing in the impeachment inquiry Wednesday evening, the Capitol Christmas Tree shined a bright spot amid the darkness.

Icing, icing baby: Capitol gingerbread replica returns
A meager 110 pounds of icing and 175 pounds of gingerbread dough used this year

The U.S. Capitol gingerbread replica sits on display by the Memorial Door on the first floor of the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

You’ll likely get a pleasant whiff of cinnamon before you see the latest “work of art” that Fred Johnson, executive district chef of the House of Representatives, took off his plate Tuesday.

Follow your nose and you’ll find this year’s Capitol gingerbread “house” tucked away on the first floor of the south wing across from the Memorial Door.

DCCC uses ‘outside the box’ thinking in wake of NRCC prank
The Thanksgiving dinner table has turned

Jenna Rivera, of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, loads donations bound for So Others Might Eat outside the DNC on Tuesday. The boxes were donated by the National Republican Congressional Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

What was intended to be a political stunt by the National Republican Congressional Committee has inspired some ‘outside the box’ thinking this Thanksgiving.

The NRCC at the end of October sent empty boxes to the Hill offices of House Democrats in battleground districts, most of which were flipped from Republican in 2018. They are expected to remain competitive next year.

American competitiveness requires a smarter Congress
Increasing science and technology advice would be an important first step

As technological innovations rapidly reshape the American economy, it’s time Congress took notice and brought itself up to speed, Grumet and Johnson write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Technological advancements are rapidly changing the American economy and workforce. At the same time, lawmakers increasingly appear to lack the capability to understand and respond effectively to this transformation. Flip phone-wielding lawmakers may have been cutting edge in the 1990s, but not in today’s Congress, which routinely grapples with complex scientific and technological issues such as gene editing, cryptocurrency, facial recognition and digital privacy. Not to mention, they must oversee $150 billion in federal R&D funding that helps fuel future innovations.

Out of 541 members, the current Congress has only two scientists and eleven engineers. Most have backgrounds in law or business, which is obvious when hearings start to get technical. This gap has to be filled by congressional staff and support agencies. Yet only 15 percent of senior congressional aides themselves think staff have the knowledge, skills and abilities to support members’ official duties. And just 24 percent think staff have enough access to high-quality, nonpartisan expertise within the legislative branch, according to a 2017 survey.