capitol-hill

Who staffs the most diverse Congress ever? Sandra Alcala, for one
Meet the House Democratic Caucus’ dream team

Sandra Alcala, a third-generation Mexican American from San Antonio, is director of member services for the House Democratic Caucus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The much-publicized diversity of the House Democratic Caucus in the 116th Congress goes deeper than the lawmakers; it extends to the staff. 

Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, a New Yorker in his fourth term and in his first top leadership post, has assembled an eight-member supporting cast of five women, including three who are black and one who’s Hispanic, and three men, including one who’s black and one who’s Hispanic.

Is Tim Kaine a Swiftie? Senator signs musician’s petition to pass Equality Act
Tim Kaine is the latest lawmaker to sign her Change.org petition

Former governor and U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine at an economic roundtable with veterans at Infinity Technology in Fairfax, Va.. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Tim Kaine is the latest politician to hop on board the Taylor train which, I might add, is moving quite swiftly.

The Democratic senator joined his colleagues (and presidential candidates) Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker in signing Taylor Swift’s Change.org petition, which urges the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act. The bill, passed in the House last month, would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jessica Cisneros wants to put her old boss out of office
Insurgent Democratic challenger was an intern in Henry Cuellar’s office five years ago. Now she’s running against him

A staffer in Rep. Henry Cuellar’s office referred to Jessica Cisneros as “Congresswoman Jess” when she was interning for the Texas Democrat. (Courtesy Jessica Cisneros for Congress)

Five years ago, Jessica Cisneros was a 20-year-old intern in Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar’s Washington office.

Now, two bachelor’s degrees and a law degree later, she’s running against him in the 2020 Democratic primary for Texas’ 28th District with backing from the group that helped New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sweep out longtime Democratic leader Joseph Crowley in a primary last year.

Pay debate raging on Capitol Hill ignores lowest-earning staffers
Boosting MRA would do most to address pay woes, Hill aides say

Boosting member pay could translate to higher salary caps for staffers, as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has pointed out. But what about those who make the least? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While Congress tussles over whether a legislative spending bill should allow a salary boost for lawmakers, their staffers agree that the Members’ Representational Allowance — which pays House staff salaries — needs more funding.

House Democrats this month pulled the Legislative Branch appropriations bill amid backlash from Republican campaign strategists and members of their own caucus.

Hearing on Congressional Research Service zeroes in on diversity issue
Rare look inside CRS at House Administration Committee

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said the Congressional Research Service should have a more diverse staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A rare public hearing on Thursday examining the Congressional Research Service revealed concerns about its lack of diversity in its leadership ranks, as members questioned its leader about hiring practices.

At Thursday’s House Administration Committee, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., asked CRS Director Mary B. Mazanec about the staff closest to her, specifically if any were a person of color, which he defined as “African American, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander.” Mazanec said she had “about 12 direct reports,” and only one of them was a person of color.

Ghirardelli chocolate and Napa Valley wine: Pelosi pays off Warriors-Raptors bet to Trudeau
Consolation prize: Canadian prime minister gives speaker a Raptors championship t-shirt

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exchange gifts as they settle a wager over the NBA basketball championship series between her Golden State Warriors and his victorious Toronto Raptors on. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

If there wasn’t enough salt in Nancy Pelosi’s wounds after the Toronto Raptors defeated her Golden State Warriors for this year’s NBA championship, she can just steal some from the pistachios she gifted Justin Trudeau. Oh wait, never mind — those are salt-free.

The Speaker held up her end of a “friendly” wager with the Canadian prime minister Thursday when she gave him the basket of all baskets, chock-full of some of California’s finest:

Bad News Babes defeat Congress for fourth year in a row
Charity game sets record by raising $365,000 for breast cancer charity

Lawmakers high-five members of the media at the congressional women’s softball game Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The forecast that called for rain Wednesday evening cleared out to make way for another, much fiercer storm: the D.C. press team.

The Bad News Babes crushed the members’ team for the fourth year in a row at the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. It was a 10-3 blowout.

Tempers flare as leaders, White House fall short on spending deal
Failure to reach agreement after top-level meeting in Capitol

Senate appropriators, led by Chairman Richard Shelby, right, and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy have held off on beginning their regular process of moving spending bills pending some agreement among the House, Senate and White House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A meeting of top White House officials and congressional leaders broke up Wednesday without agreement on topline funding allocations for appropriators, raising fresh doubts over their ability to avert another fiscal crisis later this year.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Democrats of upping the ante on nondefense spending from what they’d put on the table previously.

James Inhofe and the art of the bipartisan joke
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 78

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe and ranking member Jack Reed have a warm relationship that enables them to move bipartisan legislation, something Inhofe discusses in the latest Political Theater podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. James M. Inhofe is one conservative guy, and he is proud of it, trumpeting vote-tracking organizations that peg him as the most right-wing in the chamber. And yet, the Oklahoma Republican has an equally proud history of working with some of his most liberal colleagues on bipartisan legislation. 

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, the panel’s ranking Democrat, constructed the highly popular defense authorization bill the last two years. And before that, he worked quite productively with California Democrat Barbara Boxer, the yin to Inhofe’s yang on environmental issues, as leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee. This, despite Inhofe writing a book that claimed global warming was, as the title attested, “The Greatest Hoax.” And yet, “We prided ourselves in getting things done,” he says. 

Public to get rare look inside the Congressional Research Service, with attrition, morale points of contention
Former employees knock management as stifling quality work, innovation

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., center, chairs the House Administration Committee, which will hold a rare public examination into the Congressional Research Service. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Clarified 3:05 p.m. | Thursday’s House Administration Committee oversight hearing into the Congressional Research Service is the first in more than a decade — and is long overdue, according to former employees who say the agency is mismanaged, stifles expert research and results in a lesser work product.

The hearing will examine increasing attrition rates, low employee morale and a lack of diversity at the agency, among other issues, according to a committee spokesperson. Since 1914, the Congressional Research Service, or CRS, has provided expert policy and legal analysis to staff, members and committees in the legislative branch.