GAO Releases List of Restricted Reports

Comptroller General Gene Dodaro oversees the GAO. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Government Accountability Office released its list of "restricted reports" this week to better inform lawmakers, congressional staff, government employees and the public about its investigations.  

The Federation of American Scientists first reported  the list was launched this week. A spokesperson for the GAO said the decision to list the reports stemmed from complaints from lawmakers that they were not always aware the reports existed. "We heard from some Members of Congress that they were not always aware of such reports if they were not on the direct Committee that requested them," GAO spokesman Chuck Young wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call Friday afternoon. "So we wanted to be sure Members and staff authorized to see such work were aware of the work."  

New Library of Congress CIO Looks to Right the Ship

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For the first time since 2012, the Library of Congress has a permanent chief information officer to oversee technology at the more than 200-year-old institution.  

Bernard A. Barton Jr. became the new CIO on Sept. 8, taking the helm of information technology at the library which was the subject of a scathing Government Accountability Office report in April. "I would say that having a steady hand at the helm, which is what I intend to be, is nothing but an advantage for the Library and the IT workforce in general," Barton said in a Sept. 11 phone interview. "I intend to be supportive of what the Library requires and provide the standards, the processes, the procedures that need to be followed in order for us to get there.”  

Should Congressional Research Service Reports Be Public?

Lance says the information in CRS reports belongs to the American people. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The walls between members of the public and Capitol Hill's exclusive division of policy and legal analysts are too tall, according to transparency advocates both inside and outside of Congress.  

Such sentiment is prompting their calls to lawmakers with jurisdiction over the Library of Congress and the House clerk's office to examine making public the highly regarded work of the Congressional Research Service. "By providing public access to CRS reports, we can elevate our national discourse and make it easier for citizens to cut through the misinformation that too often confuses the national debate," Reps. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., and Mike Quigley, D-Ill., wrote in a June 17 letter to House Administration Committee leaders.  

Lawmakers Disturbed by Suspension of Suspected Capitol Police Whistleblower

Blunt wonders whether Capitol Police are being forthcoming. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As a matter of policy, members of Congress usually refrain from commenting on personnel issues related to the force of 1,775 officers sworn to protect them. But when it comes to fallout for bodyguards who protect top GOP leaders leaving their guns in publicly accessible bathrooms , some lawmakers are criticizing Capitol Police's top brass.  

"We need to do everything we can to protect whistleblowers," said House Oversight and Government Reform Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah., reacting to CQ Roll Call's report that Capitol Police have suspended a sergeant in the Capitol division, allegedly in retribution for a suspected leak. "All we want is for truth to surface and there should be no repercussions for somebody coming and informing Congress about what really happened  especially if they think there was a problem," Chaffetz said.  

Rotunda Closing Changes Capitol Tour Route

Capitol tours will be modified to adjust to the Rotunda closing this summer. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the Rotunda closing for six weeks this summer, Capitol tour guides will be offering a modified tour of the Capitol, that does not include National Statuary Hall.  

According to Capitol Visitor Center spokesperson Sharon Gang, the Small Senate Rotunda will be added to the Capitol tour route while the Rotunda is closed. The route will also include tour staples such as the orientation film, the Capitol Crypt and the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Gang wrote in an email last week that, "The route is accessible to individuals with mobility issues." But the new route does not include Statuary Hall, a typical stop on a Capitol tour. A separate Statuary Hall tour will be available during the August recess.  

Senators Weigh In on Capitol Police Hiring

The Capitol Police union alleges department brass is circumventing the agency's mandatory retirement age of 57 to hire back friends. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Handing over some of the duties currently performed by Capitol Police officers to civilian employees may be one way to better utilize the department's nearly $348 million budget, Senate appropriators have suggestedbut the  efforts to do so have caused tension with the union — including allegations of "double-dipping." A complaint filed against Capitol Police with the Office of Compliance alleges the department refused to consult or negotiate with the Capitol Police Labor Committee when it brought a retired officer back on the payroll as a civilian employee to serve as senior special events coordinator, a position in the Mission Assurance Bureau that involves coordinating visits of federal and foreign officials to the Capitol and planning for demonstrations and protests on the grounds.  

The job, with an annual salary ranging between $95,961 and $120,917, was advertised as vacant from March 11 to March 17. Officer Nicole O'Donnell performed the tasks associated with the job until March 31, when she retired because she had reached the mandatory retirement age of 57, according to a draft copy of the complaint obtained by CQ Roll Call. On April 1, Capitol Police allegedly hired O'Donnell to perform the same duties as a civilian employee.  

Questions Surround Proposed Library of Congress Program

Blunt is pushing for a new program for Library of Congress workers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One influential senator is pushing for a program to help Library of Congress workers address their workplace grievances, but no one is exactly sure yet how it will work.  

On June 11, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., added language to the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that would launch a pilot program at the library, giving LOC workers access to the same processes for resolving workplace disputes as House and Senate workers. Only a few sections of the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which lays out House and Senate workers' rights, apply to the Library of Congress. The section on resolving administrative disputes does not apply, which is a problem according to Blunt.  

Senators Working to Address Food Service Worker Issue

Schatz called for higher wages for Senate workers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

More than six weeks after reports of low-paid Senate food-service workers shocked lawmakers, senators are in the process of finding the best avenue to address the situation.  

At a June 11 markup for the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, the senators in charge of the subcommittee of jurisdiction said they will continue to work on the issue while the Senate's food service contract is in flux.  

Mayor of Capitol Hill Convenes Oversight Hearing With House Officers

Miller wants to look at Capitol Police chain of command and cybersecurity. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As part of her informal role as mayor of the chamber, House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., is ramping up oversight of some of the daily operations of the institution.  

Three top officials who work largely behind-the-scenes in the House, handling everything from floor proceedings and Capitol security to office furnishings, payroll and cafeteria operations on a budget of around $150 million, will talk to Miller about their priorities during a Wednesday congressional hearing. At the low-profile panel's second major hearing in two weeks, House Clerk Karen L. Haas, House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy and House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving will sit at the witness table. Miller said she thinks it's "time for us to have oversight" of the nonpartisan, institutional leaders appointed by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.  

Blimps Over Capitol: Just Hot Air?

The Office of Naval Research worked with Science & Technology International in 2003 to test blimps for the war on terrorism. (Alex Wong/Getty Images File Photo)

Coming soon to a Capitol skyline near you: Giant blimps at 10,000 feet?  

The woman at the helm of the House Administration Committee thinks the Capitol needs eyes in the sky, after authorities failed to detect Florida mailman Douglas Hughes' April 15 gyrocopter flight.