Tag Archives: Congress

56 attorneys general push Congress to help sexual harassment victims gain access to the courts

Attorneys general from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories wrote a letter Monday imploring Congress to make the courts more accessible to victims of sexual harassment.

The letter, addressed to congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), explicitly addresses legislation that would eliminate mandatory arbitration agreements between employers and victims when sexual harassment claims are made. Arbitration agreements result in behind-closed-door settlements that deny victims due process under the law.

“Additional concerns arise from the secrecy requirements of arbitration clauses, which disserve the public interest interest by keeping both the harassment complaints and any settlements confidential. This veil of secrecy may then prevent other persons similarly situated from learning of the harassment claims so that they, too, might pursue relief,” the attorneys general wrote. “Ending mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims would help to put a stop to the culture of silence that protects perpetrators at the cost of their victims.”

The letter goes on to acknowledge that both the House of Representatives and Senate have legislation in the works that would address this issue directly, and that “whatever form the final version may take, [the attorneys general] strongly support appropriately-tailored legislation to ensure that sexual harassment victims have a right to their day in court.”

The attorneys general also praised Microsoft, which announced in December that it had discontinued arbitration policies for sexual harassment claims, for being an early trendsetter in an important movement.

“As Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer has fairly noted, ‘[b]ecause the silencing of voices has helped perpetuate sexual harassment, the country should guarantee that people can go to court to ensure these concerns can always be heard,’” they wrote.

The House of Representatives passed legislation last week that would reform the way lawmakers’ offices handle sexual harassment cases. As it currently stands, the House’s sexual harassment policy is all but designed to protect the harasser. The new legislation would overhaul parts of the Congressional Accountability Act, streamlining the process by eliminating the mandatory 30 days of counseling and mediation period accusers were previously forced to endure. It also required that all claims in which a settlement was made be referred to the House Ethics Committee. A version of the bill is currently in the works in the Senate.

The announcement from the attorneys general comes weeks after 22 Democratic senators called on the Labor Department to collect better data when it comes to the economic impact of sexual harassment in the workplace.

“What is known is that harassment is not confined to industry or one group. It affects minimum-wage fast-food workers, middle-class workers at car manufacturing plants, and white-collar workers in finance and law, among many others,” the senators wrote in a letter. “No matter the place or source, harassment has a tangible and negative economic effect on individuals’ lifetime income and retirement, and its pervasiveness damages the economy as a whole.”


Congress votes to end latest, shortest Republican government shutdown

The government shut down at midnight, but this time, Congress passed the bill needed to reopen it within hours—and the bill passed will fund the government for two years, not just a matter of weeks.

The Senate, which began voting at 1:30 a.m. Friday, approved the deal 71 to 28. The vote was closer in the House, which voted at about 5:30 a.m. on Friday, but it passed, 240 to 186.

The shutdown will end up being just hours long and cause minimal disruption after the House followed suit with the Senate to pass the two-year budget package, which includes funding to keep the government running through March 23.

The bill now goes to the president’s desk, where he is expected to sign it and officially end the shutdown later Friday morning.

That hours-long shutdown came to you courtesy of Rand Paul’s sour-faced stand on his fake principles about the debt, less than two months after he voted to explode the federal budget with the Republican tax scam.

The deal doesn’t provide an answer for the Dreamers, with the clock ticking on their futures in the only country they’ve ever known. Here’s what it does:

The two-year budget deal would lift caps on defense and non-defense spending by $300 billion over two years. It also includes: $6 billion to fight the opioid crisis; $5.8 billion for child care development block grants;$4 billion for veterans medical facilities; $2 billion for medical research; $20 billion to augment existing infrastructure programs; and $4 billion for college affordability.

So now that that’s done, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers can be the next order of business for Congress. Right? RIGHT?

Congress passes two-year budget deal that excludes protections for Dreamers

The House of Representatives passed a two-year budget deal early Friday morning that opens the door for more than $400 billion in increased defense and domestic spending, signaling an end to the shortest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The two-year deal only includes about six weeks of additional funding for the government. Congress must come up with a long-term spending measure in order to avert another government shutdown once current funding lapses on March 23.

The move came hours after a temporary shutdown caused by Republican Sen. Rand Paul (KY), who stood for a nine-hour speech on the Senate floor to protest the bill, which adds an additional $1 trillion to the deficit in 2019, delaying the vote past midnight, when government funding lapsed.

The Senate eventually voted to pass the bill by a vote of 71-28. The measure then went to the the House, where members voted to pass it 240-186.

“This is a great victory for our men and women in uniform. Republicans and Democrats joined together to finally give our troops the resources and our generals the certainty to plan for the future,” House Speaker Paul Ryan stated.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the bill’s middle class carve-outs.

“What makes Democrats proudest of this bill is that after a decade of cuts to programs that help the middle class, we have a dramatic reversal,” he said. “Funding for education, infrastructure, fighting drug abuse, and medical research will all, for the first time in years, get very significant increases, and we have placed Washington on a path to deliver more help to the middle class in the future.”

Not everyone was pleased with the deal. Paul complained that the bill was a deficit buster and fiscally irresponsible.

“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” he said on the Senate floor. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t…in good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits.”

Paul previously voted in favor of the Republican tax bill, passed in December, which adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

The two-year budget bill raises defense spending caps by $165 billion and non-defense spending caps by $131 billion, and includes a short-term stopgap spending measure that funds the government for six weeks.

The deal notably excludes any legislative fixes for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some 690 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. President Trump announced last year he would rescind the DACA program.

Previously, many Democrats had pledged not to vote for any long-term funding legislation that did not include a permanent fix for DACA recipients. But on Friday, several of those same Democrats caved under pressure from more moderate party voices.

“[The bipartisan budget agreement] meets nearly every one of our priorities,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said in a statement earlier on Thursday. “If Democrats cannot support this kind of compromise, Congress will never function. I am angry that the Republican leadership is holding up a DACA fix, but I also know that they would not have allowed it to be solved through the budget process.”

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) echoed those statements, arguing that the bill, while far from perfect, was a good solution for the country, and that “compromise is not always easy [or] popular.”

“Not everything I want was included in this deal. It does not provide protection for our nation’s Dreamers — law-abiding strivers who call America home and seek nothing more than to contribute to our society,” Leahy stated. “…But while this agreement does not contain everything I would like, on balance it is a good bill for the American people.”

The two-year proposal was initially met with pushback in the House, where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood for more than eight hours on Wednesday to address the bill and share stories from young DACA recipients who face possible deportation when the program officially expires on March 5. According to analysis by the Center for American Progress, thousands have already lost their protected status and are vulnerable to immigration crackdowns. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed at the Center for American Progress.)

“Our plea to the speaker is for us, for ourselves, to honor the values of our founders,” Pelosi said, pushing House Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on permanent protections for Dreamers, a broader term for all undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

She added, “We have to be strong as a country…to respect the aspirations of people who are our future. The young people are our future and these dreamers are part of that. They’ve been enriched…by the greatness of our country.”

In response, a spokesperson for the speaker’s office stated that Ryan had “already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the President supports.” According to CNN, Pelosi’s spokesperson shot back in a statement later, saying that “Speaker Ryan needs to make a real commitment to act and stop hiding behind the President. It’s time to get the job done.”

However, on Thursday afternoon, Pelosi curbed her language in a dear colleague letter to House Democrats, explaining that she would vote “no” on the budget legislation but not directly requesting that they do the same.

Shortly following the early-morning vote on Friday, Ryan issued a statement that fell short of promising Democrats their desired bipartisan DACA negotiations. “Once the president signs this bill into law, we will have a clear path to pursue our ambitious agenda for 2018,” he said.

As Reuters reported, Ryan managed to name-drop the program earlier in the morning on the House floor, promising his Democratic counterparts, “My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment … We will solve this DACA problem.”

The two-year budget legislation now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed.


Congress leaders reach $300 billion budget deal

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday reached a two-year bipartisan budget deal worth around $300 billion that would lift caps on defense and domestic government spending in an attempt to end the kind of squabbling over fiscal issues that has plagued Washington for years.

The post Congress leaders reach $300 billion budget deal appeared first on Politicus USA.

Congress opens second investigation into USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Thursday began a second congressional investigation into the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG) and other gymnastic organizations over a sexual abuse scandal that led to the conviction of the sport’s former top medical doctor.