House votes to change how Congress deals with sexual harassment cases

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  • The House moved to overhaul how Congress deals with its own sexual harassment cases. It unanimously passed a bill that would make members use their own money to settle with harassment victims. That is — no use of their office budgets. The bill was sponsored by Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). A separate resolution would update the House code of conduct to ban sexual relations between a member of Congress and a staff member under his or her supervision.
  • The House passed a six week funding extension for non-defense agencies through March 23 and a full-year defense budget. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are working on a two-year deal to raise spending caps and avoid a second government shutdown. The current continuing resolution expires Feb. 8. The continuing resolution passed by the House includes funding for the Census Bureau to continue its work on the 2020 count, and funding for the Small Business Administration to continue processing disaster assistance loans. (Federal News Radio)
  • Service members who have been non-deployable for the past year may be separated from the military. Military Times reported a new policy is under final review by the Defense Department. Troops who are separated will be given administrative or disability separation. The memo will be followed by a DoD instruction, which the Pentagon said will take several months to complete. A Pentagon spokeswoman said the hope is to “reduce the number of non-deployable service members and improve personnel readiness across the force.” Approximately 11 percent, or 235,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving on active duty, in the reserves or National Guard are currently non-deployable. (Military Times)
  • The House and Senate introduced companion bills to once again get the government to stop paying dead people. The bills will let agencies have more access to death records from the Social Security Administration and aim to increase oversight to ensure the information is more accurate and timely. (Federal News Radio)
  • GSA Administrator Emily Murphy asked the Office of Management Budget, the Federal Acquisition Service and other federal offices to come up with options for making multiple award contracts more transparent. Murphy told Federal News Radio in an exclusive interview that the solution to this transparency challenge must be one that is governmentwide. Information about solicitations and awards under all multiple award contracts such as the GSA Schedules program are accessible only by those who hold contracts. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee cleared the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency, or GREAT Act. The bill will require the Office of Management and Budget and another partner agency to create data standards for federal grants. The goal is to simplify the reporting process for grants recipients. The bill exempts some data,  like personally identifiable information, information not subject to the Freedom of the Information Act and any other information that OMB exempts on a case by case basis, from public reporting. (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) questioned the accuracy of the Environmental Protection Agency’s reporting of grant funding in 2017. He asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruit for details on recent reports accusing the agency of cutting or delaying grants. Carper’s staff also completed an analysis finding that 49 out of 50 states saw a decline in reported funding. (Sen. Tom Carper)
  • Democrats on the House Oversight Committee were denied their request to vote on 13 motions for subpoena. Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) had asked Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to put the motions on the committee’s markup agenda. One request would have gone to the Office of Management and Budget concerning agency reorganization plans. (Rep. Gerry Connolly)
  • The first-ever recognition program for federal employees who provide extraordinary citizen services is extending its nomination window. The Service to Citizen: Champions of Change Program will now accept nominations through Feb. 19. The awards recognize leadership, and the use of innovative technologies, leveraging intergovernmental collaboration, the voice of the customer and data to improve government services. The winners will be recognized on May 1 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. (Dorris Consulting)