Facing outrage from voters that taxpayer money was being used to pay for sexual harassment settlements against members of Congress involving employees on Capitol Hill, the House and Senate on Thursday approved a package of reforms designed to force members of Congress to pay for any such judgments with their own money in the future. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the head of the House Administration Committee, noted that the bill will rightly hold “members of the House and Senate personally liable for unlawful harassment and retaliation.” “Time is finally up for members of Congress who think they can sexually harass and get away with it,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who last year told of being harassed on Capitol Hill when she was a young Congressional staffer. “They will no longer be able to slink away with no one knowing that they have harassed,” Speier told reporters. House Democrat Jackie Speier said men and women who sexually harass others will have to pay back the U.S. Treasury for any settlements made. It will be done through a lump sum, garnishing savings or wages, or even digging into their social security if necessary pic.twitter.com/q7RLQpgcKh — POLITICO (@politico) December 13, 2018 Click here for the details of the 80 page bill. The bill gives lawmakers 180 days to pay any harassment award; if that has not happened, then Congressional officials are authorized to garnish the pay of lawmakers, or take money from the member’s retirement savings account. If the accused member leaves the Congress, the law would give Congressional officials the power to garnish the wages of that former lawmaker in their new job, as well as taking money from an annuity or even out of that member’s Social Security benefits. Negotiations had been in limbo for several months as Senators resisted some of the changes approved by the House – Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi has said the House will move to strengthen its own rules dealing with other workplace discrimination issues, even if the Senate will not. JUST IN: The bipartisan sexual harassment bill I'm leading with @RoyBlunt has passed the Senate & House and will soon be signed into law! This will fundamentally change the way sexual harassment cases are handled in Congress and protect victims instead of protecting politicians. — Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) December 13, 2018 Another change in the bill removes the requirement that staffers who say they’ve been sexually harassed, will not have to deal with a 30-day ‘cooling off period,’ in which they are not allowed to bring a lawsuit, after they make a harassment complaint. It’s the first major change in sexual harassment policies in the Congress since the “#MeToo” movement began. The bills were passed quickly in both the House and Senate; no votes were taken, as the plans were approved by unanimous consent.
A wave of bomb threats emailed to businesses, universities and newspapers across the country and in Canada Thursday prompted evacuations and searches, but appeared to be a hoax and a crude extortion attempt, according to news reports . >> Read more trending news The Associated Press reported that law enforcement agencies have dismissed the threats and said they were meant to disrupt and extort recipients, and that they “were not credible.” “We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city,” the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit tweeted . “These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide and are not considered credible at this time.” Original story: There have been multiple reports of emailed bomb threats to businesses, universities and newspapers across the country. The FBI is investigating, saying it is in contact with law enforcement to provide assistance and reminding citizens to remain vigilant. >> Read more trending news Police in New York City, among other law enforcement departments, confirm that there have been several threats made across the country, and so far, no credible threats have been found. Some of the threats have already been determined to be hoaxes, KSL and other media outlets reported. KCRG in Iowa reported the threats were a spam email that tried to scam receivers out of money. In other locations, officials continued to investigate, and evacuated businesses out of an abundance of caution.
After starting the 2019 fiscal year with $100 billion in red ink, Uncle Sam added more than double that in the month of November, as the Treasury Department reported Thursday that the federal government ran a deficit last month of $204.9 billion, leaving the deficit at over $300 billion just two months into the new fiscal year. “The deficit has never been this high when the economy was this strong,” said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a watchdog group which has repeatedly complained about the lack of action in Congress and the White House about rising deficits. “Rarely have deficits risen when the economy is booming. And never in modern U.S. history have deficits been so high outside of a war or recession,” the group said on Thursday. Compared to a year ago, the deficit for October and November of 2018 was $104 billion more than in 2017. White House budget experts have predicted the 2019 deficit could come close to $1 trillion, the highest since 2012. November Treasury deficit $204.9 billion vs deficit of $138.5 billion prior — Michael Underhill (@M_D_Underhill) December 13, 2018 Looking at November 2018 and November 2017, revenues were down slightly from a year ago, as the feds brought in almost $206 billion last month, compared to $208 billion in 2017. Spending was up sharply, at almost $411 billion in November, compared to $347 billion a year ago. One area where more revenue came in to the feds in November was in tariffs and customs duties, as Uncle Sam took in $5.5 billion; that figure was $3.2 billion a year ago. But even if those numbers continue up – as President Trump has predicted with his aggressive trade actions – it won’t come close to filling a growing tide of red ink. The latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office are close to what the White House has been predicting – a budget deficit which will come close to $1 trillion this year – but the CBO believes the deficit will go over $1 trillion after that, for a number of years. In a new report released hours before the updated deficit figures, the CBO again offered up a number of options to reduce the deficit, making the case that something must change. “Since 2007, federal debt held by the public has more than doubled in relation to the size of the economy, and it will keep growing significantly if the large annual budget deficits projected under current law come to pass,” the CBO wrote. But there has been little appetite in recent years among Republicans in the Congress to make dramatic changes – either in spending or revenues to change the direction of the deficit.