After Sexual Harassment Accusations, Congress Moves Toward Mandatory Training Susan Davis – November 14, 20175:21 PM ET

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday, leveling accusations of sexual harassment against a current, unnamed congressman.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Two female lawmakers accused sitting members of Congress of sexual harassment but did not divulge their identities, at a House hearing Tuesday.

“This is about a member who is here now; I don’t know who it is. But somebody who I trust told me the situation,” said Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., a member of the House Administration Committee, which is conducting a review of existing policies to prevent and report sexual harassment.

According to Comstock: The male lawmaker asked a young female staffer to bring some paperwork to him at home; he answered the door in nothing but a towel.

“At that point, he decided to expose himself,” Comstock said. “She left. And then she quit her job.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., divulged that she is also aware of harassing behavior by some of her colleagues.

“In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now, who serve, who have not been subject to review, but have engaged in sexual harassment,” she said without identifying the lawmakers.

There was broad agreement at Tuesday’s hearing that the House needs to make some changes, starting with mandatory sexual harassment training.

Currently, the training is optional.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement later Tuesday that the House will move toward adopting mandatory training for harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

“Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,” Ryan said.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., was an employment attorney before he entered Congress. He testified at the hearing and urged a series of additional reforms, including a universal harassment policy.

Currently, each of the 435 member offices is considered an independent hiring authority and can set its own terms for training policies.

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Congress Passes Anti-White Supremacy Resolution, Unclear If Trump Will Sign – By Margaret Hartmann September 13, 2017 12:20 am

It’s a far cry from the calls to censure Trump over Charlottesville, yet the White House has yet to say whether he’ll support the measure.

People protest racism in front of the White House on August 14, 2017. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

After the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, many Republican lawmakers condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups, but they stopped short of criticizing President Trump by name when he failed to do the same.

President Trump dragged out the controversy, reading a statement criticizing the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups,” then spending the next few days making it clear he resented being forced to do so. The next day he declared in an erratic press conference that there were some “very fine people” among the crowd chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and at a rally a week later he cast himself as the victim of dishonest journalists.

House Democrats responded by introducing a resolution to censure Trump, and many supported the move. “This is a moment of reckoning for members of the Party of Lincoln: Do they want to stand up for American values, or do they want to keep enabling a president whose understanding of right and wrong has slipped dangerously off the rails?” wrote USA Today’s editorial board.

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Congress is finally working to defund civil asset forfeiture – BY JASON PYE, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 09/02/17 07:00 AM EDT


Next week, the House of Representatives will consider an appropriations bill, H.R. 3354, which will authorize spending for the Department of Justice for the upcoming fiscal year. Some members, Republican and Democratic alike, have submitted amendment to the bill that would defund the directive issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ramp up the use of civil asset forfeiture.

Sessions is a vocal advocate of civil asset forfeiture, the process by which local law enforcement can permanently seize property or money that is suspected to have a connection to a crime. During an April 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, then-Sen. Sessions was less than sympathetic toward a witness, Russ Caswell, whose hotel was wrongly seized when local law enforcement claimed that it had facilitated illicit activity.

Sessions read from letters from law enforcement officials in support of forfeiture while addressing Caswell and defending the pernicious practice, which is often abused. He downplayed the instances in which the legitimately owned property of innocent people — who were never arrested, charged or convicted of any wrongdoing — was seized by law enforcement, who, in most states and at the federal level, can keep all or part of the proceeds from forfeiture.

In January 2015, the Department of Justice made an administrative change related to civil asset forfeiture under Attorney General Eric Holder. The changes were related to adoptive seizures through which a state or local law enforcement agency can allow a federal agency to adopt seized assets and subject them to forfeiture under federal law. Adoptive seizures represent a small share of federal forfeiture changes, but conservatives, progressives, and libertarians applauded the change.

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a special election loss shows Democrats could use a substantive agenda Updated by Matthew Yglesias Jun 20, 2017, 10:07pm EDT

Jon Ossoff’s narrow loss in the Georgia House special election seat will come as a crushing emotional blow to Democrats even though it hardly dooms their hopes to take back Congress next year.

To gain a majority, Democrats need to find a way to win races in districts like this one — traditional Republican bastions endangered by Donald Trump’s weakness with college graduates — but they don’t need to sweep them all by any means. Ossoff was the best recruit Democrats had available in the district, but a guy with no elective experience whose house lies just outside the district boundaries is hardly an ideal candidate.

To win in 2018, Democrats will have to find opportunities to do better, but it’s certainly an achievable goal. The fact that the district was competitive is a sign that the GOP majority is at risk; the question is simply what can Democrats do to put themselves over the top?

One thing they might want to try is developing a substantive policy agenda to run on. They came close this time, and they’ll just need to put forth an attractive package for voters in the 2018 midterms.

Ossoff lost over nonsense

Ossoff, like so many losing Democratic candidates over the years, was brought down fundamentally by arguments grounded in identity politics.

Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s health care bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L. Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”

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Congress Finally Gets Going on That Regulating Robocars Thing – AARIAN MARSHALL 06.21.17 07:00 AM

Jade Marucut/WIRED

Seven years after Google started developing robocars, 13 months after a Florida man died in a Tesla Model S that was driving itself, and almost a year after self-driving Ubers started picking up passengers in Pennsylvania, Congress might actually start regulating autonomous vehicles.

Nearly everyone working on this emerging technology, from automakers to the tech companies to the government watchdogs, agrees that it’s about time. The robocars scurrying about places like Austin and Boston and San Francisco operate under a mélange of state and local rules that lay down different requirements and appease myriad special interests. And if this patchwork persists, bringing these cars to the market could be a major headache.

No longer. Maybe. Last week, the Senate published bipartisan principles outlining what the legislation might look like. House Republicans, meanwhile, started circulating the drafts of a 14-bill package making it easier for federal regulators to make all the rules. Congress, it seems, wants to shred the patchwork of rules and regulations and blanket the nation in uniform guidelines that allow the technology to develop while ensuring everyone it will be safe. But giving the feds that authority creates some problems—and raises plenty of questions.

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Congress Reaches Deal To Fund Government Through September – Emma Bowman April 30, 2017 10:15 PM ET

Congressional negotiators are reporting an agreement has been reached on a massive $1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund the day-to-day operations of virtually every federal agency through Oct. 1. The House and Senate have until Friday at midnight to pass the measure to avert a government shutdown. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

With a federal shutdown deadline looming, congressional negotiators have agreed on a new bill to keep the U.S. government open through Sept. 30, NPR’s Susan Davis confirms.

Details of the deal are still emerging, but the plan does not include money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Lawmakers have until midnight on Friday to pass the deal to keep the federal government funded.

Last Friday, Congress bought a week’s time to finalize the bipartisan agreement when lawmakers in the House and Senate approved a short-term spending bill that averted a shutdown that would have taken place Saturday — President Trump’s 100th day in office.

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Members of Congress Demand POTUS Provide Legal Justification for Syria Attack

NEARLY THREE WEEKS AFTER ordering a cruise missile attack against one of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s airfields, Donald Trump has yet to explain how that was legal without congressional authorization.

Two Democratic members of Congress are demanding that Trump offer some sort of legal justification beyond off-the-cuff remarks from administration officials.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Rep. Adam Schiff of California sent a stern letter to the White House on Tuesday, warning that Trump could be setting a dangerous precedent for conducting pre-emptive strikes and risking war with major powers, while cutting Congress out of the picture.

Two days after the missile strike, Trump sent Congress a notice that he had ordered it and that he had the “constitutional authority” to do so.

Source: Members of Congress Demand Trump Provide Legal Justification for Syria Attack

A Scientist Just Spent 2 Hours Debating the Biggest Global Warming Deniers in Congress – REBECCA LEBER MAR. 29, 2017 6:03 PM

Michael Mann vs. the House “science” committee.

At a congressional hearing on climate science Wednesday, Michael Mann lamented that he was the only witness representing the overwhelming scientific consensus that manmade global warming poses a major threat.

“We find ourselves at this hearing today, with three individuals who represent that tiny minority that reject this consensus or downplay its significance, and only one—myself—who is in the mainstream,” he said in his opening testimony.

“I think the intention is to cause scientists to retreat.”

Sitting on either side of Mann were the other three witnesses: Judith Curry, John Christy, and Roger Pielke, Jr.—scientists who have clashed with Mann in the past and are frequently sought after by Republican politicians who reject mainstream climate science. Curry recently defended EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s statement that scientists don’t know whether human activity is “a primary contributor” to global warming. Christy claims that climate models overstate the role of human activity. Pielke accepts the role greenhouse gasses play in warming but has drawn criticismfor arguing that links between extreme weather and climate change have been overstated.

Sitting on the dais across from Mann was House science committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a climate change denier who has made headlines in recent years by using his committee to investigate scientists and accuse them of rigging climate data. Last week, at the Heartland Institute’s annual DC conference for climate change deniers, Smith boasted of his record of issuing dozens of subpoenas to government researchers, environmental groups, and Democratic attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil. He also previewed Wednesday’s hearing, predicting that it was “going to be so much fun.” He slow-rolled the names of the witnesses as conference attendees cheered—but he warned them they might want to hold their applause until he finished reading name of the final witness, which was Mann.

Smith summarized his own views of global warming in his opening statement Wednesday: “Alarmist predictions amount to nothing more than wild guesses. The ability to project far in to the future is impossible…All too often, scientists ignore the basic tenets of science in order to justify their claims. Their ultimate goal appears to be to promote a personal agenda even if the evidence doesn’t support it.”

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What to expect now that Internet providers can collect and sell your Web browser history – By Brian Fung March 29 at 2:27 PM

(Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg News)

After Congress handed President Trump legislation Tuesday that would wipe away landmark privacy protections for Internet users, we received a lot of reader questions about what happens next. The legislation makes it easier for Internet providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to collect and sell information such as your Web browsing history and app usage. But let’s get into the details: You wanted to know whether the measure could help the government dig up dirt on people. You asked how to protect your privacy. And some of you even asked if it would be possible to buy up the online browsing histories of Trump or members of Congress.

To find out, I spoke to a number of privacy and security experts who have been following these issues closely in the public and the private sectors.

Catch me up real quick. What did Congress vote on?

Congress voted to keep a set of Internet privacy protections approved in October from taking effect later this year. The rules would have banned Internet providers from collecting, storing, sharing and selling certain types of personal information — such as browsing histories, app usage data, location information and more — without your consent. Trump must still sign the legislation, but he is widely expected to do so. For more, read our full story here.

Without these rules, could I really go to an Internet provider and buy a person’s browsing history?

The short answer is “in theory, but probably not in reality.”

Many Internet service providers (ISPs) have privacy policies that may cover this type of information. If an ISP shares or sells an individual’s personal information in violation of its own privacy policy, a state attorney general could take the company to court, said Travis LeBlanc, a former enforcement bureau chief at the Federal Communications Commission. State attorneys general could also sue ISPs whose data practices could be construed as “unfair” to other businesses. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has said what’s left of his agency’s privacy authority still allows him to bring lawsuits against companies — he just won’t be able to write rules that look similar to what Congress rejected this week.

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9 health reform lies Congress members are telling their constituents – Updated by Charles Ornstein and Julia Belluz Mar 22, 2017, 5:00am EDT

We fact checked lawmakers’ letters on health care. They were full of mistruths and misinformation.

In the race to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have been guilty of spreading erroneous statements, exaggerating the truth, and skimping out on context.

That’s the takeaway from a review by ProPublica and its partners at Kaiser Health News, Stat and Vox of more than 200 letters that members of Congress sent out to their constituents in response to the public’s questions and concerns about the Affordable Care Act, and its proposed replacement, the GOP’s American Health Care Act.

We reviewed the emails and letters sent by 51 senators and 134 members of the House within the past few months. More Republicans fudged than Democrats, though both had their moments. The legislators cited wrong statistics, conflated health care terms and made statements that don’t stand up to verification.

It’s not clear if the inaccuracies were intentional, or if the lawmakers and their staff don’t understand the current law or the proposals to alter it. But either way, the issue has become increasingly heated as the House gets ready for a vote on the GOP’s replacement bill this Thursday.

Here are some whoppers from members of both parties, and the truth and context behind what they told voters.

The lies Republican members made to their constituents

Republicans criticize the law for not living up to its promises. They say former President Obama pledged that people could keep their health plans and doctors and premiums would go down. Neither has happened. They also say that insurers are dropping out of the market and that monthly premiums and deductibles (the amount people must pay before their coverage kicks in) have gone up. That’s all true.

But they also told a few whoppers.

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