Minor Malfunction

Posted June 10, 2008 at 6:32pm

A stalled Senate subway train forced Senators to suffer Tuesday through an extra-long cloture vote on the energy bill.

[IMGCAP(1)]Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) kept the vote open when the train running from the Dirksen and Hart office buildings to the Capitol malfunctioned.

The train stopped when one of the doors refused to open, said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol. But she said she didn’t know whether any Senators — or anyone at all — were trapped inside the train’s compartment during the incident.

The rollers on the door apparently froze in what she described as a “precautionary” reaction. “Sometimes these things happen to prevent injury or any kind of incident,” she said.

Mechanics were able to get the train moving within about 12 minutes, she said. Such incidents rarely happen, Malecki said. But the subway cars have had accidents: In the fall, one of the House cars crashed into the railing at the end of the line, injuring the driver.

A Watchdog’s New Tricks. Changes at the Government Accountability Office are on the horizon, including a guaranteed annual wage increase and a statutory inspector general.

The House passed a bill to implement those changes Monday night, and Senate staffers are already in negotiations for the companion bill.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) introduced the bill and has followed the issue closely as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the GAO. On the floor Monday, he lauded the bill’s passage as a “triumphant day” for GAO employees.

The bill directs the GAO to make a lump-sum payment to about 300 analysts who didn’t receive a cost-of-living increase in 2006 and 2007 — an act that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost about $1.7 million. It also guarantees that satisfactory employees will get cost-of-living allowances in the future.

Analysts are anxiously awaiting the bill’s passage in the Senate and the end to a years-long battle. Former Comptroller General David Walker denied them the annual increases when he restructured the agency’s pay system.

Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has said that he supports the measure, but the bill still faced some opposition when it came to the floor last week.

Democrats had slipped in a provision that allowed the GAO to view Medicaid and Federal Drug Administration information that is currently off-limits. That section was dropped from the bill that passed the House on Monday.

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