Barbara Comstock

Women’s Congressional Staff Association Looks Back at 10 Years
WCSA is holding a conversation with members on sexual harassment to kick off 2018

Colleen Carlos, president of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association, is a legislative assistant for Rep. Robert A. Brady, D-Pa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As the Women’s Congressional Staff Association passes the 10-year mark, it is emerging as a resource for sexual harassment issues.

It’s a “hallmark year” for the group, which was founded by four female staffers a decade ago, new president Colleen Carlos said. 

Steyer Won’t Run for Office in California
Plans to pump $30 million into midterms instead

Tom Steyer (NextGen Climate/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.5)

California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer announced Monday he would not seek elected office and instead plans to pump millions of dollars into the midterm elections.

There had been speculation that Steyer would potentially run for Senate or governor of California during the 2018 midterms.

House Boots Anti-Harassment Legislation Into January, Too
‘We haven’t finished it yet; we’re still working through it’

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., left (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As most major legislative issues Congress had hoped to address in December, the House punted into January its planned release of a bill updating sexual harassment policies.

“We haven’t finished it yet; we’re still working through it,” House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper said.

House Panel Approves Sexual Harassment Training Guidelines
‘Sea change’ in culture is sought

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, said new guidelines for sexual harassment and discrimination training represent a “sea change” in culture. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Administration Committee on Tuesday approved guidelines for implementing newly mandated sexual harassment and discrimination training, as members were set to unveil this week more legislation that would respond to allegations of sexual misbehavior on Capitol Hill.

The panel adopted by voice vote a set of regulations governing fulfillment of the training, including that it must be in person, have options for reporting complaints even from a bystander and that trainees must be allowed to ask questions anonymously. The House adopted a resolution Nov. 29 that mandated training for all House members and staff — but left the substance of the effort to the Administration Committee.

Congress Mandated Harassment Training; Now They Have to Pay for It
Costs, details of the popular resolution still up in the air

Lawmakers, with Gretchen Carlson, unveil sexual harassment legislation earlier this month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

 

The House and Senate each adopted resolutions mandating harassment and discrimination training for employees of Congress and legislative agencies. Yet it’s not clear how much the training will cost and what it will include.

A Huge Congressional Settlement Involving Sexual Harassment — And Hardly Anyone Knew
Lawmakers on Helsinki Commission blindsided by report of $220K payout

Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings has denied allegations of sexual misconduct that led to a $220,000 payment to a former congressional staffer. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The $220,000 paid to former staffer Winsome Packer in 2014 is by far the largest known settlement involving Congress and accusations of sexual harassment in recent years.

But few, if any, of the lawmakers who served on the congressional commission where Packer worked seem to have been informed about it until the sum was reported by Roll Call on Friday.  

Want to Know Who Else Has Been Accused of Sexual Harassment in Congress? Good Luck
Congressional offices can’t release basic details of complaints — even to lawmakers

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock says Congress must “fundamentally change” how sexual harassment complaints are handled. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The details of sexual harassment complaints against members of Congress and their staffs are secret and cannot be released to lawmakers seeking to determine the extent of the problem on Capitol Hill, a congressional official testified Thursday. 

“The law doesn’t allow us to release anything,” said Susan Tsui Grundmann, the executive director of the Office of Compliance, which oversees the response to sexual harassment complaints in Congress. She told a hearing of the House Administrative Committee that if lawmakers want to know more — including the number of complaints filed and the names of the accused — they will have to change the law. 

Picture This: A ‘Perfecto’ Final Tax Bill
As House, Senate negotiate, president raises expectations

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks with reporters about the GOP tax bill between votes in the Capitol on Nov. 30. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House and Senate are not even in formal conference negotiations on a tax overhaul measure yet, but the expectation from the White House is clear: It’s got to be “perfecto.”

On a day of increasing uncertainty over how to fund the government past Dec. 8, President Donald Trump hosted a small group of Senate Republicans at the White House and placed his marker. 

Limiting Sexual Harassment Payouts ‘Complicated,’ Lawmakers Say
Funding limitation could be one response to sexual misconduct scandals roiling Capitol Hill

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said using the appropriations process to restrict settlement payouts was complex. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated, 4:05 p.m. | Lawmakers have been quick to express their disgust with sexual harassment payments that come out of federal coffers to cover the cost of elected officials’ behavior. But members are more guarded when asked whether they would take action by attaching a funding limitation to a spending bill — a common instrument used by lawmakers in appropriations.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a top Republican appropriator, sounded cautious after last week’s revelation that the Office of Compliance has doled out tens of thousands of dollars since 2013.

Following Senate, House Mandates Sexual Harassment Training
Bipartisan measure comes after allegations against Conyers, Franken

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., and Vice Chairwoman Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., conduct a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center after a conference meeting Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Wednesday adopted by voice vote a resolution that would require all House employees — including all members — to be trained annually on workplace harassment and discrimination.

The bipartisan measure comes on the heels of allegations against Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the longest serving member in Congress, and Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. As those cases work through the congressional ethics process, there’s a renewed focus on how sexual harassment can be reported on Capitol Hill.