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Mayhem in the House of Representatives

Who knew a fight over a reporting requirement for rape survivors could take down a horrible bill that would impose a nationwide abortion ban on later pregnancies? But that’s exactly what happened last night. Just as I was about to get on a treadmill to work out the stresses of the day, I learned that the House Rules Committee was hastily convening at 9 pm to replace the 20 week ban bill with a totally different anti-abortion bill.

You can’t make this stuff up when it comes to abortion politics. Read more »

New Legislation Aims to Stop Harassment Before It Starts

On Monday, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced a bill that would require all members of the U.S House of Representatives to complete mandatory sexual harassment training. The training would include “practical examples aimed at prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation presented by expert trainers.”

This is a commonsense solution to an all-too-common problem. Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and remedy harassment, and it makes good business sense. Yet 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men still report harassment in the workplace today.

All employers—including the House—should adopt policies that explain what sexual harassment is, and make it unmistakably clear that it is prohibited in the workplace. A policy should also set out a procedure for filing and investigating complaints. Then, employers should train employees, supervisors, and managers not to harass and what to do if harassment occurs. Read more »

Take Action Against the Shutdown

It’s time to end the government shutdown and make sure America pays its bills. That’s why we are joining forces with organizations across the country to turn the pressure up – one phone call at a time – and send a clear message to the House of Representatives.

Call 888.659.9562 and urge your Member of Congress to end the shutdown, no strings attached! It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Call 888.659.9562 and listen to the recording which will review the message you can deliver to your Member of Congress.
  2. Enter your zip code.
  3. When connected urge your Representative to act NOW to end the government shutdown and prevent the economic catastrophe of a government default, without conditions. Tell them next to restore funding for all of the services that families count on and to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.
Read more »

House Singles Out Women’s Health As a Bargaining Chip in the Debate Over the Government Shutdown

While the rest of us were watching the season premiere of Saturday Night Live this weekend, the House passed a bill that holds women’s health hostage as a bargaining chip in the debate over shutting down the government.

It is such a typical move by the far-right politicians in the House that it almost plays out like a skit on SNL. They have become caricatures of themselves.

Specifically, late Saturday night, the House passed a continuing resolution that would exempt bosses from complying with the ACA’s Women’s Health Amendment if they oppose it for “religious or moral” reasons. This means that bosses could impose their religious beliefs on their employees, or even block their employees’ access to needed women’s health care for vague and undefined “moral” reasons. Female employees and dependents – just like men – are capable of making their own health decisions and must be allowed to do so without interference from their bosses. Read more »

A $40 billion SNAP cut isn’t belt-tightening. It’s life-threatening.

Tighten our belts? You have to be kidding.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is expected to introduce a bill that could come to a vote this week, which would cut SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) benefits for 4 to 6 million struggling Americans. SNAP provides critical assistance to millions of people, mostly women and children, to stave off hunger. In 2011, SNAP lifted the incomes of almost 3.9 million people above the poverty line (including 1.1 million women and 1.7 million children). And in a nation where nearly 50 million Americans suffer from food insecurity annually – including 15.8 million children – SNAP benefits are tangible, direct, and life-saving. But they’re already modest, averaging less than $1.40 per person per meal.

And now they’re on the chopping block. Read more »

Last Week, Chained CPI—This Week, Raising the Retirement Age and More

It’s August in Washington, DC and Congress is out of town—but the House Ways and Means Committee wants to know what you think about additional ways to cut Social Security benefits.

Through last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) invited comments on adopting the chained CPI: a proposal that would reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and cut the value of benefits more and more every year. Seven thousand of you joined us to tell the Committee that the chained CPI is especially harmful to women. Now the Committee is asking for comments by August 29 on other proposed benefit cuts, including raising the retirement age and changing the benefit formula to reduce benefits.

Raising the retirement age is really just another way to cut benefits. It reduces benefits no matter when an individual claims benefits. Increasing the retirement age from 67 (the current retirement age for people born in 1960 or later) to 69 would reduce benefits by about 13 percent, whether an individual claims benefits at 65, 67, 69—or even 70. Read more »

Congress to SCOTUS: What’s POWADA With You?

On July 30, George Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, or POWADA, which would restore vital civil rights protections for older workers by reversing the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Gross v. FBL Financial. POWADA reestablishes that once a victim shows discrimination was a “motivating factor” behind a decision, the burden is properly on the employer to show it complied with the law.

The Gross decision made it nearly impossible to prove age discrimination by requiring that victims prove that age was not only a factor in an employer’s decision but was the decisive factor (this is also known as “but-for causation” meaning that but-for the age discrimination, the employer would have made a different decision). The Gross decision has had wide-reaching effects: just this year, the Supreme Court applied the higher standard of proof to claims of retaliation in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar (applying but-for causation test to claims of retaliation under Title VII), and, as in Gross, expressed skepticism at the intelligence of jurors and lower court judges in Vance v. Ball State University (restricting the definition of ‘supervisor’ under Title VII). Read more »

The Hastily Added Sexual Assault Exception to H.R. 1797 Proves How Much Its Sponsors Just Don’t Get It

H.R. 1797 is still a really really bad bill. It imposes a federal ban on almost all abortions after 20 weeks. It has no exception for when a woman’s health is threatened, or when there is a severe fetal anomaly. The one exception in the original introduction only applied to when a woman was on her deathbed from a physical illness (suicidal? sorry not good enough). The bill is an unconstitutional whopper – a paternalistic piece of legislation that cruelly ignores the lives of women it will affect. But don’t just take my word for it, see it for yourself. Just see how the bill’s sponsors view sexual assault, and its victims…

This is last week: House Judiciary Committee holds mark-up of H.R. 1797. During said hearing, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, makes now infamous comment that pregnancy does not often result from rape. Franks makes this comment just before every Republican committee member votes against an amendment that would have included an exception for rape or incest. Committee members complain that the exception doesn’t include a reporting requirement.

Next up – huge fallout from Franks’ comments, Washington Post gives him four pinocchios for his statement. House leadership scrambles. Bill is taken out of Franks’ hands, and given to a female Republican to manage on the floor. But what else can be done to get bill back on track? That’s right -- add that pesky rape/incest exception on a late Friday afternoon.

But the exception itself shows how bill sponsors really don’t get it. And think we really are stupid. That the public won’t see through this crass political calculation. Should we feel good about this bill now that it includes an exception for rape and incest THAT REQUIRES FIRST THE SEXUAL ASSAULT TO BE REPORTED? Read more »

Adding Insult to Injury – The Hypocrisy of the House Leadership About Abortion and Rape

As our regular readers know, earlier this week the House Judiciary Committee voted against adding an exception for rape and incest to the 20 week ban bill. At the hearing, Rep. Trent Franks said that the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant due to a rape was low. Read more »

A Bad Day for Sexual Assault Victims in Congress

Yesterday, two different Congressional committees voted against protections for sexual assault victims:

  • The House Judiciary Committee, while considering a 20 week abortion ban, voted AGAINST including an exception for victims of rape and incest. During the Committee meeting, Representative Trent Franks joined the long list of abortion opponents who have claimed that the chance of “rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.”
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee, in considering a set of new protections for victims of sexual assault, voted AGAINST a provision to give the responsibility for addressing these crimes to independent prosecutors and away from the chain of command. As you may recall, there have been several very public stories in the last few months of commanders failing to pursue claims of sexual assault and overturning sexual assault convictions. And, even reports that the officers charged with enforcing these laws accused of sexual assault themselves.

It is important to note that these two votes took place in very different contexts – the House vote took place during consideration of a bill designed to limit women’s rights while the Senate vote took place during consideration of a bill that will otherwise strengthen the military’s prevention of and response to sexual assault. Read more »