ENVI

Congress tries to walk the climate crisis talk
Amid debate on Green New Deal, Democrats are treading lightly in their daily lives

Staffers are aiming to lead by example, by creating workplace cultures where being “green” is a priority. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Staffers working for environmentally minded lawmakers are trying to walk the talk on climate change by taking small personal actions while their bosses call for big-picture policy shifts.

Around Capitol Hill, several aides are aiming to create workplace cultures where being “green” is a priority and holding colleagues accountable is the norm.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a ‘living wage’ starts in her office
New York Democrat will pay staffers no less than $52,000 a year

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, center, and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, third from right, arrive with staff members for a press conference on the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Feb. 7. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Claudia Pagon Marchena, like so many Hill staffers, moonlighted at a Washington, D.C., eatery to pay her rent until she took a job with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She celebrated her last day at her coffee shop job that same week.

That’s because Ocasio-Cortez, who has called on fellow lawmakers to pay their staffs a “living wage,” is making an example out of her own office. The New York Democrat has introduced an unusual policy that no one on her staff will make less than $52,000 a year — an almost unheard of amount for many of the 20-somethings whose long hours make House and Senate offices run.

Abusive callers, chatty constituents? It’s all in a day’s work on the Hill
For former interns, staff assistants, answering phones has been a formative experience

Aaron Fritschner, communications director for Virginia Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., has plenty of experience answering constituent phone calls in his previous positions on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Aaron Fritschner’s first day on Capitol Hill was Dec. 14, 2012.

As the only intern in New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s office, he was being trained how to answer the phones and talk to constituents.

Lori Trahan got the band back together as she staffed up her office
Freshman Democrat was once a Hill aide herself

When Rep. Lori Trahan was a scheduler, she tried to be the first one at the office, if only for a little quiet time. Now that she’s the boss, she doesn’t want her staffers to burn the candle at both ends. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lori Trahan knows a thing or two about transferable skills. After climbing the Hill ranks from scheduler to chief of staff, she decamped to the male-dominated world of tech, where her congressional experience came in handy.

Now that she’s back as a freshman Democrat — in the same seat once held by her former boss, Massachusetts Rep. Marty Meehan — she’s trying to think like a consultant. That means being willing to say, “Wait a second, that’s crazy.”

You have 48 hours to become a tech expert. If only this office could help
Gingrich slashed the Office of Technology Assessment. It’s time to bring it back

When Newt Gingrich wanted to cut the budget back in the 1990s, the lowest-hanging fruit was the Office of Technology Assessment, Moss writes.

OPINION — Silicon Valley loves picking on Washington, D.C., for being inept and slow. But what our friends in the Valley do not acknowledge is that while they can indulge in the “move fast and break things” mantra, when D.C. moves fast and breaks things, precedent is set and Americans suffer for generations.

This is the problem at hand: How do we ensure that our lawmakers — the ones policing Silicon Valley — do so in a measured, thoughtful way instead of crippling emerging industry giants just because Congress can’t keep up with them? As a former staffer who now works at a think tank that focuses on technology policy and capacity issues in Congress, I struggle with this question every day.

Will members of Congress ever drug-test themselves? They’ve certainly tried
From the Gingrich era to the present, lawmakers have toyed with peeing in a cup

Last year Rep. Clay Higgins became the latest member to call on Congress to drug-test itself. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress has a long history of trying to drug-test itself. But has it ever succeeded?

Back in 1997, House Republicans got close. They changed the rules to let the speaker develop a sweeping program to test members and staff.

Frostpaw still can’t bear climate change
That’s why this gigantic polar bear roams around Washington

Bill Snape dons his Frostpaw outfit in Philadelphia for the 2016 Democratic convention. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If you see a 7-foot polar bear around D.C., don’t panic. It’s probably just Frostpaw.

“It’s akin to hot yoga,” said Bill Snape, who’s been donning the iconic costume for several years. “Whenever I first put it on, I have these five minutes of claustrophobia and discomfort, and then I just relax and find my breathing pattern and get into this love trance.”

Congress could block big chunk of Trump’s emergency wall money
Full funds likely to be unavailable from the sources president has identified

More than a third of the money President Donald Trump wants to redirect from other federal programs to build a border barrier is likely to be unavailable from the sources he identified. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

More than one-third of the money President Donald Trump wants to redirect from other federal programs to build a border barrier is likely to be unavailable from the sources he has identified.

As a result, it may be difficult for the president to circumvent Congress, even if a resolution disapproving of his “emergency” moves is never enacted.

Trump’s labor secretary broke federal law in sex offender plea deal, judge says
Alexander Acosta — then a U.S. attorney — violated federal law in Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case

Alex Acosta, center, talks with Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, after the senators introduced him during his Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, March 22, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A plea agreement with financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta had a part in when he was a U.S.attorney  violated federal law, a judge ruled Thursday. 

Officials with Acosta’s office and the White House had not responded to requests for comment at the time this story was published. 

Rep. Dan Kildee interviewed by Alec Baldwin for Flint documentary
Congressman met with actor for an upcoming documentary on the city’s water crisis

Rep. Dan Kildee, right, poses with actor Alec Baldwin on Wednesday in Flint, Michigan. Baldwin interviewed the Michigan Democrat for an upcoming documentary on the Flint water crisis. (Courtesy Rep. Dan Kildee)

Rep. Dan Kildee met with actor and “Saturday Night Live” Donald Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin on Wednesday for an interview in Michigan that will be featured in an upcoming documentary film about the Flint water crisis.

The untitled documentary, which has been in the works since 2015, is being directed by British filmmaker Anthony Baxter, The Detroit News reported. Baxter wanted to tell the story of Flint from the perspective of its residents, instead of politicians and celebrities, Variety reported in 2017. The film does not yet have a release window.