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Sodexo Takes Over the House

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In one House cafeteria, closed doors and cardboard boxes. In another, red, white and blue balloons.  

Sodexo, an international food vendor, officially took over the House dining services Monday, causing a number of areas to close for construction while posting new signs and decorations in the cafeterias that remained open. “We are pleased to be able to provide a variety of food options for staff and visitors during the construction process," House Chief Administrative Officer spokeswoman Emily Goodin said. "We thank people for their patience during this time.”  

Congressional Couches Test Positive for Toxic Retardant

Pallone said he was not surprised some congressional couches tested positive for toxic flame-retardant chemicals. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As Congress considers an overhaul of toxic chemical regulations, a new analysis has brought the issue close to home — perhaps a little too close for comfort.  

The Environmental Defense Fund recently analyzed six couches from each of the congressional office buildings and found three contained a toxic flame-retardant chemical known as TDCPP. The chemical can be found on the California Environmental Protection Agency's list of carcinogens. The analysis could cause some concern around the Capitol — particularly among members of the "Couch Caucus ," who sleep in their offices. Advocates working to overhaul chemical safety regulations hope it pushes lawmakers to act.  

House Phone System Malfunctions During Maintenance

Phones in the House went down Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The phone system in the House went down for roughly one hour Tuesday morning, causing some lawmakers to direct phone calls to their district offices.  

Engineers for the chief administrative officer sent a message at 10:43 a.m. to House offices stating, "CAO Engineers are working to resolve a problem preventing external phones from calling House phone numbers." One hour later, CAO engineers sent another notice that they had "resolved the problem with incoming phone calls."  

Capitol Evaluates Own Cybersecurity After OPM Hack

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As news broke that data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management affected more than 22 million people , Senate staffers received a notice from the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms about the chamber's own cybersecurity.  

"As a result of recent data breaches in other areas of government, a reassessment of our cybersecurity posture was implemented," read the Thursday email obtained by CQ Roll Call. The message then described updates to logging into the Senate's Web VPN service, or workers' remote access to their Senate accounts. The missive reflected that campus administrators are looking inward at the Capitol's cybersecurity systems following the massive data breach at the OPM, which affected congressional staffers and some members of Congress,  since staffer and member data is transferred to the OPM when they leave service. The breach led to intense criticism of the agency, culminating in OPM Director Katherine Archuleta's resignation on Friday.  

OPM Hack Snares Senators

Daines, whose information was compromised in the OPM hack, called on the director to step down. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite a number of congressional hearings and classified briefings, lawmakers are frustrated by the lack of information relating to the recent Office of Personnel Management data breaches, and it is now clear  some lawmakers' records may have been affected.  

At least two current senators who were not federal employees were notified their information may have been compromised, signaling that retirement records for former House members may have been compromised in the first security breach, which the OPM announced on June 4. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., received letters from the OPM saying their personal identifiable information such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers may have been compromised. "I don’t really know how I got caught up in it," Boozman told CQ Roll Call Tuesday evening. Daines assumed his former House service was the cause.  

Demands for Resignations, More Answers Follow OPM Breach (Video)

Meadows called for Archuleta's resignation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lawmakers continue to look for answers about the recent Office of Personnel Management data breaches affecting millions of federal workers, with some House members calling for the director's resignation.  

"It is outrageous that after the biggest data breach in our nation’s history, OPM has yet to fire a single individual," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said in a statement Wednesday. "It is time that Director [Katherine] Archuleta step down and be replaced with someone prepared to immediately address cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the agency.”  

OPM Breach Includes Congressional Staffers (Video)

Connolly, left, said one of his staffers was affected by the OPM breach. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As government officials answered questions about the recent Office of Personnel Management data breach, former and current congressional staffers processed the notices they are receiving from the agency that they, too, were affected by the breach.  

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., told CQ Roll Call Tuesday that his press secretary, George Burke, who has never worked for the executive branch, received a notice from the OPM saying his personal identifiable information may have been compromised. Connolly said he spoke with someone in the office of the House Chief Administrative Officer, and it appeared that congressional staffers who had a break in their service, activating their retirement status, were affected by the breach. “What it seems to be is: If you worked up here for 'x' number of years and you terminate your employment and you leave government service, they give a final report, which may turn out not to be final, about your retirement status to OPM," Connolly said after attending the classified briefing on the breach for members of the House.  

Report: Congressional Websites Not Ready for Secure Connection

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Go to any congressional website and you’re sure to find a form for constituents to contact their lawmakers. But a recent analysis found most congressional websites are not equipped to protect that data as it is transmitted.  

The Sunlight Foundation, a group that advocates for government transparency, recently published an analysis of congressional websites that revealed only 15 percent of sites are ready to implement a secure browsing connection, known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. This code is visible at the beginning of a Web address and usually appears with a padlock next to it. “HTTPS is basically a way of ensuring that the connection between you and a website is protected by encryption, and any data you share while on that site, like credit card, contact or personal information is, for the most part, safe,” Sunlight Labs Director James Turk said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “In this case, if a constituent is using a congressional page to contact his or her representatives, information they input in the contact form could be compromised by a third party.”  

Sodexo Named New House Food Service Vendor

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Things will be changing soon in House cafeterias.  

Ed Cassidy, the House chief administrative officer, announced Wednesday that food service conglomerate Sodexo will be taking over as the food service vendor for all 10 dining areas in the House and House office buildings beginning on Aug. 10. “They’ve got vast experience, considerable resources, flexibility and a commitment to customer service that we think positions them well to be an effective partner in providing high-quality, affordable food services to members, staff and visitors to the House," Cassidy said in an interview in his office Tuesday morning.  

Most Legislative Workers Likely Not Affected by OPM Hack

Cassidy sent a notice about the OPM breach to House staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

According to House and Senate administrators, congressional staffers have likely not been affected by the Office of Personel Management data breach affecting millions of federal government workers, unless a congressional staffer once worked for the executive branch.  

"Unless you were employed previously in the executive branch of the federal government there is no indication at this time that your personally identifiable information (PII) was compromised," Chief Administrative Officer for the House Ed Cassidy wrote in a notice sent to House staff Friday afternoon. A source with the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms also noted that the breach does not affect legislative branch employees, unless those employees previously worked for the executive branch.