Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Congress to Consider Harassment, Anti-Discrimination Training Requirements

Washington, D.C. - November 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The House of Representatives will consider Congresswoman Barbara Comstock's (R-VA, 10th) bipartisan Resolution this upcoming week requiring all Members and staff to complete mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training during each session of Congress. The Resolution is also sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), and Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-PA). The Resolution is expected to be voted on by the full House this week.

“Recent cases of sexual harassment both within Congress, and outside in other industries, make clear that we need increased efforts to provide zero tolerance for any form of sexual harassment in Congress. This bipartisan Resolution is a first step and more will still be done. This Resolution reforms House rules so that staff, interns, and fellows have the necessary protections if they face sexual harassment or discrimination in the Congressional workplace. This resolution will also put in the proper protocols and training so that both staff and Members are fully trained on anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination procedures.

“I want to thank House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper in working in a bipartisan manner on this resolution. Fostering a safe and healthy work environment in the House of Representatives is a priority for the Committee. Going forward we also will be working on additional legislation that will bring more accountability and transparency in cases of sexual harassment. The House Administration Committee will also be holding a hearing on December 7th to examine the Congressional Accountability Act and best practices going forward to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.”


· The Resolution requires that all House Members, Officers, employees, including interns, detailees, and fellows, of the House of Representatives shall complete an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training program during each session of Congress.

· Each individual must complete the training within 90 days of the session. For new hires, staff must complete the training within 90 days of their hire date during the session. For the current 115th Congress, each individual shall complete the training no later than 180 days after the second session of Congress begins.

· Each individual will provide their certificate of completion to the Committee on House Administration and the training must be repeated every session of Congress.

· The Resolution tasks the Committee on House Administration with issuing regulations to ensure compliance and transparency. As part of the Committee’s extensive review, these regulations will be drafted and adopted by the Committee within 30 days of enactment of the Resolution.

· Additionally, the Resolution requires the posting of a statement of the rights and protections provided to employees of the House of Representatives under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.

Ahead of a vote this week to formally establish mandatory sexual harassment training in the House, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN, 5th) encouraged House leaders to go much further by unmasking the secret settlements that lawmakers have reached with people accusing them of sexual harassment.

“Training is not enough,” Rep. Cooper said. “Whenever Congress spends taxpayer money, we should disclose it all. Maybe then, our ‘zero tolerance’ policies will actually mean something. No one is above the law.”

Rep. Cooper, whose staff is already required to take an anti-harassment training course offered by the House, said heightened public awareness of sexual harassment issues should be more than enough reason for Congress to take additional steps beyond training.

These steps include naming the House and Senate lawmakers who have used a secret taxpayer-funded account to settle sexual harassment claims in Congress – retroactively and, if necessary, moving forward. But Rep. Cooper believes the current practice of secret settlements should be abolished altogether.

Cheri Bustos (D-IL, 17th) stated, “I find it unacceptable that members of Congress can use taxpayer funds to settle workplace disputes with virtually no transparency, particularly accusations of sexual harassment or discrimination. If a member of Congress is going to settle a sexual harassment claim, taxpayers should have the right to know about it since they’re the ones footing the bill. I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to demand a higher standard of leadership, a safer workplace environment and a culture of accountability on factory floors, in office buildings and in the halls of Congress.”

All of this comes in the wake of allegations made against John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 13th). In response to Conyer's decision to step down from his committee (although he has not opted to resign) David Cicilline (D-RI, 1st) stated, “Given the seriousness of the allegations against him, it was appropriate for Congressman Conyers to step down as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee. I have tremendous respect for the work he has done to serve our country, but the accusations that have been presented against him in recent days are very serious. The Ethics Committee needs to conduct a thorough, impartial investigation into these accusations as quickly as possible.”

Some members of Congress say training isn't enough.

Rep. Ron DeSantis has announced his intent to introduce legislation to bring transparency to the congressional claims process and to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to pay harassment claims.

In an effort to restore accountability, DeSantis' legislation will make public all payments funded by taxpayers, including the nature of the initial allegation and the member of Congress implicated, bar the use of any tax dollars to be used to settle sexual harassment claims where the plaintiff is a member of Congress or an employee of the House or Senate, and require that any member of Congress named in a settlement paid for by taxpayers reimburse the American people.

"Settlements paid with tax dollars should not be kept secret. Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent," DeSantis said. "Furthermore, members of Congress cannot be allowed to use the American people's money as a personal slushfund to cover wrongdoing. I’m working on legislation to unseal the settlement records, bar the use of tax dollars to pay harassment claims against members and staff, prohibit members from using their office budgets to camouflage settlement payments (a Conyers rule), and require reimbursement of the taxpayer by members and staff who have had settlements paid due to their misconduct.”

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Franken Must Take His Own Medicine

by Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Sen. Al Franken broke his silence and did a media tour explaining away his sexual offenses. "I'm looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow," he said. He should instead take some of his own medicine and resign.

Five years ago, Franken co-sponsored a bill, the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, to strengthen federal legislation on human trafficking, which includes sexual exploitation. The bill, which was approved by the Senate in December 2012, was necessitated because of the failure of the existing "zero tolerance" policy.

In July 2013, Franken co-sponsored another bill, the Military Justice Improvement Act, to deal with the "epidemic of sexual assault in the military." It was necessitated because of the failure of the existing "zero tolerance" policy.

It was noble of Franken to support going beyond "zero tolerance" to combat sexual abuse by government contractors and subcontractors who operate overseas. Similarly, it was noble of him to support going beyond "zero tolerance" to combat sexual molestation in the armed forces.

It was ignoble of him to go back to work today. Does he think that his support for legislation combating sexual abuse should not extend to him? He has admitted to one act of sexual abuse, and is accused by three other women of violating them.

Ironically, it was the Catholic Church that first instituted a "zero tolerance" policy for abusers. And what did Franken do? He mocked it.

Now that Franken has proven that he has no integrity left, it is up to the Senate to show him the door. He is utterly shameless.

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Has Political Correctness Silenced Us?

by The Pastor's Network

The Greek poet Euripides was known to say that “Silence is true wisdom’s best reply.”

But when it comes to discussing political views in this sometimes-tempestuous society, many are taking the stance that silence—especially in difficult conversations about politics, religion and other controversial topics—is preferred and safer.

As evidence, the American Pastors Network, the largest national network dedicated to equipping pastors to be a voice for truth in the public square, is pointing to a new Cato Institute study that found 71 percent of Americans say political correctness has silenced some of the discussions society must have, and 58 percent have political views they are afraid to share.

APN President Sam Rohrer says these findings are telling in regards to how Americans interact with each other, the cultural climate and the role of the church in these important conversations.

“The most pressing topics in our society are not being discussed because a culture has been created that silences our voices,” Rohrer said. “This can be due to a variety of reasons, including fear, isolation or ridicule. These are the topics, however, Americans should be discussing, and especially Christians as they hopefully bring the truth of God’s Word to our everyday conversations. Furthermore, how does this translate to the Church? We pray pastors are not silencing themselves as well, but we know that many choose not to address from the pulpit the crucial matters in our culture for whatever reason.

“One of the missional goals of the American Pastors Network is to encourage biblically faithful clergy to take seriously Jesus’ command to be the ‘salt and light’ to the culture, encourage informed Christian thinking about contemporary social issues, examine public policy issues without politicizing their pulpits and engage their congregations in taking part in the political process on a non-partisan basis,” Rohrer added. “We certainly can’t act as salt and light by hiding the light of God’s truth under a bushel, which is exactly what we resort to when we keep silent in an increasingly PC culture.”

The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, which polled 2,300 U.S. adults, also found that political party somewhat dictated how people felt about silencing their conversations. For example, a slim majority (53 percent) of Democrats do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73 percent) and independents (58 percent) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.

Cato also reported, “A solid majority (59 percent) of Americans think people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those deeply offensive to others. On the other hand, 40 percent think government should prevent hate speech.”

Despite this, the survey also found Americans willing to censor, regulate, or punish a wide variety of speech and expression they personally find offensive:

  • 51 percent of staunch liberals say it’s “morally acceptable” to punch Nazis.
  • 53 percent of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51 percent of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people’s preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65 percent of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58 percent of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47 percent of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
  • 59 percent of liberals say it’s hate speech to say transgender people have a mental disorder; only 17 percent of conservatives agree.
  • 39 percent of conservatives believe it’s hate speech to say the police are racist; only 17 percent of liberals agree.
  • 80 percent of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say illegal immigrants should be deported; only 36 percent of conservatives agree.
  • 87 percent of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say women shouldn’t fight in military combat roles, while 47 percent of conservatives agree.
  • 90 percent of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say homosexuality is a sin, while 47 percent of conservatives agree.

    “These findings, especially the chasms between liberals and conservatives when it comes to moral and biblical issues such as a homosexuality, immigration, religion and gender, are especially important for church leaders,” Rohrer added. “While every pastor must first and foremost preach the whole counsel of God and reveal the Bible’s truth without waver, it is helpful to know where the people in the pews stand and the conversations they are having—or not having—regarding these important matters.”
  • Congressman Cleaver Joins House and Senate Democrats in Sponsoring New Proposal for Retired Workers

    Washington, D.C. - November 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II joined Democratic leaders from the House and Senate in sponsoring a new proposal to help pension retirees. The proposed legislation would ensure that retired workers keep the pensions they have earned. Specifically, the legislation would allow the Treasury Department to loan money through the sale of U.S. Treasury bonds to pension plans to ensure that retirees and their families are guaranteed their promised benefits.

    “It was time for Congress to act. Millions of pensions are at risk. I listened to thousands of retirees in my district, and across the Midwest, who were worried about their pensions being cut, some by as much as 60 percent. I believe this plan is a practical, common-sense solution that will ensure retirees continue to receive the pensions they have worked for,” said Congressman Cleaver.

    Pension plans – including the massive Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, and over 200 more plans impacting workers in every state in the country – are on the brink of failure. If nothing is done, these 200 multiemployer plans are projected to fail, many within the next 10 years. The result would be economically devastating, as the retirement benefits of 1.5 million plan participants could be at risk.

    Congressman Cleaver has been working on behalf of retirees on this issue since 2015 when over 800 retirees began contacting his office.

    “In my district alone, there will be over 3,500 people affected. For the state of Missouri, an estimated 32,000 people are impacted with a total of $3 billion dollars’ worth of pensions,” said Congressman Cleaver.

    The proposal would:

    • Provide financing to put failing pension plans back on solid ground to ensure they can meet their commitments to retirees today and to workers for decades to come.

    • Prevent cuts to benefits retirees have already earned.

    • Put safeguards in place so pension plans remain strong for today's workers when they retire.

    In 2016, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver held a town hall meeting for retired workers who are affected by the massive cuts to the Central States Pension Fund (CSPF) and led efforts to bring the U.S. Treasury Department’s Special Master, Kenneth Feinberg, to hear their concerns about the proposed steep cuts to the Central States Pension Fund. Over 1,500 people showed up at the Downtown Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri to share their concerns, regarding the implementation of the Kline-Miller Act.

    This year, Congressman Cleaver sent a letter, which can be found here, to President Donald Trump to address the crisis involving multi-employer pensions and in 2016 Congressman Cleaver sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting a formal investigation into the management of the Central States Pension Fund to determine if there was any fraudulent or mishandling of funds. He also joined other U.S. House members in requesting a full accounting of the CSPF by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That study is currently ongoing.

    “It’s time to protect the promise we made to retirees. Protect their pensions,” said Congressman Cleaver.

    Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus.

    See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site

    Labor Department’s Fiduciary Rule Delay Met With Opposition

    Washington, D.C. - November 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule extending the applicability of the full protections of the conflict of interest (fiduciary) rule by a full year and a half, from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019. The fiduciary rule was initially set to take effect in April 2017, but was delayed following a directive by President Trump early in the year. After examining the rule, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced in May that the rule would not be delayed further and would take effect in January 2018. This announcement means the rule – which was originally announced in 2015 – will not be implemented until July 2019.

    The Save Our Retirement (SOR) coalition issued the following statement in response:

    “This action is effectively a repeal of the fiduciary rule’s most critical provisions – the provisions that ensure the rule is effective and enforceable and that financial advisers and their firms are accountable for providing the best interest advice retirement savers both want and need. DOL claims it is simply delaying the full implementation and enforcement of the fiduciary rule by 18 months, but delay implies these provisions will become applicable in the near future. However, the Trump Administration has made clear its goal is that these most critical provisions never become applicable. Instead, the Administration’s intent is to use this time to permanently dismantle key elements of the rule.

    “The Trump Administration’s actions prove that it is far less interested in protecting investors from the harmful effects of conflicts of interest than it is in catering to Wall Street interests. This rule is only as strong as its ability to be enforced. By stripping out the rule’s private enforcement mechanism, and by stating that the Department won’t enforce the rule, the DOL has rendered the rule toothless. This is exactly what the industry rule opponents wanted – a best interest in name only standard that leaves the broker-dealer, insurance, and mutual fund industry free to continue draining retirement savers’ hard-earned money with impunity. This outcome is especially troubling, since many firms in the adviser industry have embraced the rule and were fully prepared to comply by January 1st.”

    U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) also commented, “Today’s decision means that those financial advisors more concerned with their bottom line than with helping customers will now have 18 more months to ignore new consumer-friendly rules that protect Americans’ retirement savings from bad investment advice and hidden fees. This new delay is on top of a six-month delay in enforcement of the conflict of interest rule announced earlier this year.

    “Enough is enough. It’s time to finally enforce these rules and ensure that every financial advisor prioritizes their clients' interests over their own.”

    Senator Booker has been a leading voice in the effort to implement the consumer safeguard. In February 2015, he joined President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren at AARP’s headquarters to announce the new rule and the enormous impact it would have on families saving for retirement. When it was signaled earlier this year that the rule might be scrapped, Booker publicly pressured the Labor Department for months, sending several letters to the Labor Secretary and penning an op-ed with Senator Warren explaining why the rule was so important to Americans saving for retirement.

    See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site


    Washington, D.C. - November 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI, 7th) has been awarded the 2017 Motorcycle Legislator of the Year Award by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, one of the nation’s leading motorcycle rights organizations. Since the group’s formation in 1984, the Legislator of the Year award recognizes lawmakers for their commitment to advancing policies that support motorcycle riders across the country.

    “As a Harley owner who has been riding since my 20th birthday, receiving this award is particularly meaningful,” said Congressman Walberg, co-chair of the House Motorcycle Caucus. “Millions of Americans from all walks of life rely on motorcycles as a means of transportation or recreation, and I’m proud to advocate for their freedom to responsibly enjoy the open road or off-road trails.”

    “Tim has always been a great friend to the motorcycle community,” said Vince Consiglio, Executive Director of ABATE of Michigan and member of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. “We know we can count on him to make sure our voice is heard in the halls of Congress.”

    In the 115th Congress, Walberg has championed a number of legislative issues of importance to motorcycling, including introducing a bipartisan resolution to address the issue of motorcycle profiling and promote collaboration between the motorcycle and law enforcement communities.

    See more headlines at The Ponder News Web Site


    Washington, D.C. - November 27, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Congressional Task Force on Election Security, chaired by Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS, 2nd) and Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-PA, 1st) sent a letter to the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to request funding to help states secure their voting infrastructure.

    Russia’s unprecedented assault on the country’s elections in 2016, targeting 21 states’ voting systems, exposed the urgent need to protect these systems – which includes voting machines and voter registration databases. Currently, there is nearly $400 million remaining from the 2002 Help America Vote Act that could be used for this purpose. The Brennan Center for Justice has reported that replacing outdated, paperless voting machines would cost up to $400 million. Although the election was over a year ago, federal election security action has been nonexistent. Just last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted to Congress that he had “not followed through” to ensure that the 2018 elections are secure.

    Congressman Thompson and Congressman Brady released the following statement along with their letter:

    “When a sovereign nation attempts to meddle in our elections, it is an attack on our country. We created the Task Force on Election Security to better understand what can be done to protect our elections going forward. Finding that voting machines and voter databases can be easily hacked, there is a clear and urgent need for federal funding to help states secure their elections. We cannot leave states on their own to defend against the sophisticated tactics of state actors like Russia. The money that states desperately need to take crucial security steps is available and can be appropriated right now. We urge our colleagues in Congress to recognize with us that ensuring the security of our election systems is a bipartisan issue. With the next federal election less than a year away, Congress must act now.”

    You can read the Letter to Appropriations by clicking HERE

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