Politics

A Mississippi Senate Flip? Probably Not

By Stuart Rothenberg
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Politics

On ‘Medicare-for-All,’ Democrats Tread Lightly

By Mary Ellen McIntire
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Forty years ago Sunday, a young Jackie Speier was shot and left for dead on an airstrip in Guyana, after helping her boss — Rep. Leo Ryan — rescue 25 cult members from a deadly cult commune known as Jonestown. Ryan was shot and killed that day, shortly before more than 900 members of the commune died of a mass suicide and murder.

Speier, who has been a member of Congress from California since 2008, joined Roll Call to listen to recently uncovered audio of an interview her former boss conducted with a cult escapee, just months before Ryan was killed in the so-called Jonestown massacre.

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Vice President Mike Pence is getting bipartisan backing for pressing Aung San Suu Kyi over the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar.

Pence met with the state counsellor of the country, also known as Burma, in connection with his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which has taken him countries across Asia, as well as Australia.

“As co-chairs of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, we have repeatedly condemned the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State and called on the Government of Burma to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” said Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “We applaud Vice President Pence for affirming the United States’ commitment to a free and independent press and delivering a strong criticism of the treatment of the Rohingya during his meeting with Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN Summit on Wednesday.”

The senators continued: “The Government of Burma should take immediate steps to improve conditions for the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Burma, including providing a pathway to citizenship for the Rohingya.”

Tillis and Coons expressed a commitment to assist displaced Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh. The development of democracy in Myanmar has been among the most-watched developments in foreign policy in the Senate.

That’s largely because of the long time interest in the country coming from current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senior administration officials told reporters traveling with Pence that the vice president specifically asked Suu Kyi to pardon the Reuters journalists, apparently going even beyond what he had said to Suu Kyi in public.

At the top of the Wednesday meeting with Suu Kyi, Pence said, “Let me also say that, in America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press. And the arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans, and I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press.”

“Let me urge all our nations to do more to address the plight of the Rohingya. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled their homeland because of the slaughter and persecution by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilantes. This is a humanitarian crisis, but we must also beware the potential radicalization of refugees,” Pence also said this week at an East Asia Summit Plenary Session in Singapore.

Watch Also: Ai Weiwei Discusses Refugee Crisis

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Democrats’ draft proposals for overhauling the House rules would return at least some so-called regular order processes to the lower chamber by ensuring major bills go through committee before hitting the floor. 

The requirement that all bills being brought to the floor under a rule must have gone through a committee hearing and markup is just one of several notable changes Democrats are floating to House rules now that they’ll be in the majority. 

Incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern presented the draft proposals, a list of which was obtained by Roll Call, to the Democratic Caucus Thursday afternoon.

Some of the notable proposals include:

 

One proposal not included on the list is a restoration of earmarks.

Since the 2010 earmark ban Republicans implemented was included only in their intraparty rules, Democrats technically do not need to use the rules package to restore them. They can just start using them again. 

However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who’s expected to be majority leader next Congress, has suggested that language be added to the rules package outlining the parameters under which earmarks could be used and providing guidelines for ensuring they are transparent. 

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

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Rep. Ruben Kihuen harassed women who worked with him and violated the House’s official code of conduct, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Thursday. 

“Kihuen made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities,” the report says. The advances included kissing, grabbing and comments about underwear.

The release comes after a nine-month inquiry by an investigative subcommittee empaneled in Dec. 2017. 

The Nevada Democrat refused to resign following allegations of harassment by women who worked for and with him, even after top Democrats called on him to step down. But Kihuen decided not to seek re-election, making the announcement a day after the Ethics Committee launched its investigation.

At the time, he disputed the allegations against him, but said they “would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a re-election campaign.” 

Three women testified before the investigative subcommittee that Kihuen made unwanted physical and verbal advances toward them between 2013 and 2017. The report details Kihuen’s actions toward a D.C. “firm employee,” a campaign staffer and a Nevada lobbyist.

The committee found that while serving as a member of the House, Kihuen repeatedly kissed the firm employee’s cheek, touched her shoulders and back and commented on her physique. He also inquired about her relationship status and asked if she lived alone. Kihuen insinuated that he would help the D.C. firm employee with her career in exchange for a romantic relationship, according to the Ethics report.

The campaign staffer testified that Kihuen made unwanted advances toward her by touching her thigh while they were driving back from a meeting and by grabbing the back of her thigh as she stood up to check her computer. She told the committee that Kihuen would tell her “you look really good,” and “I would take you out if you didn’t work for me,” by suggesting that the two of them should get a room as they arrived at a hotel for a meeting, and by asking her if she ever cheated on her boyfriend.

The female lobbyist, who worked with Kihuen in Nevada between 2013 and 2015, testified that he slid his hand under her dress and onto her thigh, grabbed her buttocks, asked her to sit on his lap, inquired what color her panties were and suggested that she would look good naked. The report also says the lobbyist testified that he sent messages suggesting — through emojis — that they make a sex tape together.

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The subcommittee’s full report includes over 100 pages of text messages, chats and emails between Kihuen and the women, along with the women discussing Kihuen’s behavior with other people.

While the investigative subcommittee chose not to “address whether any of Representative Kihuen’s behavior prior to being sworn in as a Member of the House” fell within the panel’s jurisdiction, the full House Ethics Committee asserted in the report that it has jurisdiction over “misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House.”

The full Ethics panel decided that Kihuen’s behavior toward the campaign staffer, coupled with his actions when he was serving in the House, warrants “reproval.”

Reproval by the Ethics Committee is “intended to be a clear public statement of rebuke of a Member’s conduct issued by a body of that Member’s peers acting … on behalf of the House of Representatives.”

House Rule XXIII, clauses 1 and 2, states that “a Member … of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House” and “shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.”

Roll Call Reporters Discuss Covering Sexual Harassment on the Hill in the #MeToo Era

 

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The midterms have come and gone and it’s back to the Hill for members new and old. The lame duck sessions in the House and Senate gaveled in Tuesday while new member orientation kicked off its first week.

The chambers, along with orientation, recess next week for the Thanksgiving holiday and will start up sessions again the week of Nov. 26.

Here's the entire week in photos:

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The House Ethics Committee found Rep. Mark Meadows failed to take “prompt and decisive action” to handle alleged sexual harassment in his congressional office, according to a Friday report.

The committee also found Meadows violated House rules by failing to take action to ensure his office was not engaging in discrimination.

The House Ethics Committee is requiring Meadows to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the amount paid to a Meadows staffer who was removed from his role due to allegations of harassment, $40,625.02.

A group of employees in Meadows’ Washington office reported in October 2014 to the deputy chief of staff at the time that Kenny West had acted inappropriately toward them. Meadows continued to pay West his full-time salary after he was moved to a part-time advisory role. The Code of Official Conduct for House members says that members may not “retain an employee who does not perform duties for the employing office commensurate with the compensation the employee receives.”

The Ethics Committee found that when West was demoted to senior adviser, his pay remained the same. The report says that the committee found “little evidence of official work that he completed during that time.”

“To cut off all contact between Mr. West and most of his female employees, caused another potential problem. An environment where only male staff have access to the Chief of Staff risks unequal treatment of employees based solely on sex,” the report said.

The committee found that Meadows did not know about West’s behavior until several of his female staff made complaints to him in Oct. 2014. Meadows arranged for an independent investigation through the Office of House Employment Counsel, or the Office of Compliance.

“After that independent review was complete, he ignored its findings and the recommendation by the independent investigator to terminate Mr. West’s employment,” according to the Ethics Committee report.

“While Representative Meadows took some important immediate steps – restricting Mr. West from the congressional offices and prohibiting him from contacting most of the female employees – those steps were essentially all he did to prevent and correct the alleged sexual harassment for nearly six months,” says the report.

Meadows was approached by GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, who told him that the measures he took to separate West from the female staff were not working. The speaker’s office got involved in the spring of 2015, which prompted Meadows to remove West from his supervisory role.

“There is no place in any congressional office for looking up skirts, or down shirts; staring at a woman’s chest; unwanted touching; or making sexual comments, even if subtle or in jest. The fact that Mr. West supervised the women he did these things to makes his behavior even more unacceptable,” says the report.

“Making sure my team feels safe and secure in our office is the highest priority for me and I’m truly sorry for any stress this situation caused them. I thank the Ethics Committee for their work in resolving this, and my office will remain committed to serving western North Carolinians every day to the best of our ability,” said Meadows in a statement Friday afternoon.

Meadows intends to pay back the severance as the committee requested, according to an aide.

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Politics

Chuck Grassley Opts for Finance Chairmanship

By Roll Call Staff
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