Senate Leaders Join Dining Boycott

Schumer and Brown pose with Senate workers. (Photo courtesy Good Jobs Nation)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the chamber's No. 3 Democrat, made a surprise appearance in a Senate cafeteria Wednesday afternoon to join a boycott of the Senate's food service vendor. Senate staffers launched the boycott last week , urging Restaurant Associates to raise wages for Senate workers and allow for collective bargaining. Roughly 80 staffers showed up at the boycott Wednesday, bringing their lunches in brown bags marked with stickers that read, "Senate Staff Solidarity."  

"I'm proud of each of you," Reid told the staffers and workers gathered in the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria.  

Senate Democrats Call for Higher Wages for Capitol Food Workers

Brown led the effort to circulate the letter. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nearly all members of the Senate Democratic Conference are calling for Capitol food service workers to receive higher wages and improved working conditions, according to a letter obtained by CQ Roll Call.  

"It is important that all Senate cafeteria and catering workers are able to do their jobs in a positive and supportive work environment," the senators wrote in a letter that's expected to be sent to the Senate Rules Committee by the end of the week. "If Restaurant Associates is unable to treat and compensate its employees appropriately, we urge you to terminate the contract and find a different vendor." The Senate is in the midst of renegotiating its contract with its food-service vendor, Restaurant Associates, which expires in December. Though the Architect of the Capitol has taken the lead in the negotiations, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has to sign off on the contract. The letter is addressed to Blunt and Rules ranking Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York.  

On Unattended Guns, Questions Linger for Capitol Police

Dine is nearing the end of a 90-day probationary period with the Capitol Police Board. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Called before Congress for an oversight hearing after a tumultuous few weeks of reports of loaded service weapons left in problematic places around the Capitol and an ongoing hunt for employees who may have leaked internal information, Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine promised the acts would be dealt with “firmly and effectively.”  

But 10 weeks after that hearing, and six months after the first incident, only one of the officers who left a weapon unattended has been disciplined. The agent assigned to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s security detail who left his Glock and magazine stuffed in the toilet seat cover holder of a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom stall served a six-day suspension without pay. He remains on assignment with the Kentucky Republican.  

Capitol Food Workers Bring Income Inequality to Congress' Front Step

Workers called for higher wages and a union. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

For the third time in the past eight months, food-service workers at the Capitol have gone on strike to push for higher wages and union representation, a rare example of a national issue — income inequality — hitting close to home for Congress.  

Forty Capitol workers, the highest number so far, joined roughly 650 federal contract workers from across the District of Columbia Wednesday who went on strike and rallied in Upper Senate Park. The previous Capitol protests called on President Barack Obama to take executive action to raise contract-worker wages, which would not have affected workers in the legislative branch. But on Wednesday, workers called on Congress to raise the minimum wage, and presidential candidate and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., announced at the rally they would introduce legislation to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.  

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.  

Capitol Police Sergeant Suspended in Gun-in-Bathroom Probe

This photo has caused a firestorm within the agency. (Photo provided to CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Police have suspended a sergeant in the Capitol division, allegedly in retribution for a leak related to Roll Call's May 1 report of three incidents  in which officers left loaded guns in problematic places, such as the bathroom.  

The sergeant was one of two senior officials ordered on June 22 to speak with internal affairs investigators in the Office of Professional Responsibility, according to sources within the department. Those sources did not want to speak on the record about disciplinary matters for fear of retribution. Only one returned to work, the sources said, while the sergeant has not been back on duty since. After the lost guns made waves around Capitol Hill, law enforcement officials announced the department's Office of Professional Responsibility and its independent inspector general would review the incidents and report all findings and recommendations to the Capitol Police Board. Police subsequently launched a hunt for the source behind the photo of one unattended Glock service weapon left in a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom.  

Capitol Police Encouraged Not to Go to Press With Problems

Larkin, left, has recently been attending Capitol Police roll calls. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Within the institutional hierarchy of Capitol Hill, stepping outside the chain of command to tell your boss's boss what's on your mind might seem like a risky idea. But that's exactly what Capitol Police sources say they have been encouraged to do recently — better that than go to the media. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin and his counterpart in the House, Paul D. Irving, have been making the rounds at police roll calls, telling officers they have permission to come directly to their doors if they feel like Capitol Police management is not being responsive to a problem, according to multiple sources who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. The officials, who sit on the Capitol Police Board along with Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers, warn "no good" comes from going to the press with problems, the sources said.  

Dropping by the roll calls, where officers present themselves to their supervisors for inspection and get briefed before their shifts, is something Irving has done two or three times each year since he was sworn in on Jan. 17, 2012, as the House's 36th sergeant-at-arms.  

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.  

Return to Sender? House Rules May Thwart Delivery of Doug Hughes' Letter

Congressional rules may stop the latest attempt to get Hughes' letter to members of Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Connecticut man who wants to redress his grievances about campaign finance with a letter to Congress has learned security measures make it impossible to hand-deliver individually addressed mail to House members. In the Senate, he'll need an armed escort. Joe Lane, 71, planned to sling a mail bag over his shoulder and walk the halls of Capitol Hill's office buildings Wednesday, hand-delivering letters signed by Florida mailman Douglas Hughes to each member until his "legs give out."  

Compared to Hughes' first delivery attempt on April 15, when he strapped a U.S. Postal Service bin full of letters to his landing gear and piloted a gyrocopter from Pennsylvania to the West Front of the Capitol, Lane's venture is "about as straightforward as can be in a representative democracy," the author and moviemaker said during a June 5 phone interview.