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