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Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 6:53 PM
— UPDATE: Dec. 6, 2017 5:25 p.m.: Sen. Al Franken is disputing a Minnesota Public Radio report that he is resigning from office during a planned press conference Thursday afternoon. Franken, in a tweet, asked MPR to correct their story.
UPDATE: Dec. 6, 2017 5:00 p.m.: Minnesota Public Radio is reporting Sen. Al Franken will resign his Senate seat on Thursday. The news outlet is citing a Democratic official and “key aides” who have talked with Franken.
“The official spoke to Franken and separately to Franken's staff. A staff member told the official that Franken had gone to his Washington home to discuss his plans with family,” MPR reported.
Minnesota Public Radio said it agreed to withhold the official’s name so that Franken can make the announcement himself.
BREAKING: Al Franken will resign tomorrow https://t.co/8A1j7p9Y06— MPR News (@MPRnews) December 6, 2017
Two women came forward Wednesday to accuse Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate sexual behavior as calls for his resignation swelled.
The reports bring the number of allegations made against the Minnesota Democrat to at least eight. Many of the alleged incidents happened before Franken became a senator, although at least two, including one reported Wednesday, were alleged to have happened after he was sworn in.
A former Democratic congressional aide accused Franken of trying to forcibly kiss her in 2006, three years before he was sworn in as a U.S. senator, according to Politico.
The aide told the news site that she was getting her things together after a taping of Franken’s radio show in 2006 when she turned to find him in her face.
“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked,” the aide told Politico. “I was really startled by it and I just sort of booked it towards the door and he said, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer.’”
Franken denied the allegation in a statement to Politico.
“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous,” he said. “I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”
Freelance journalist Tina DuPuy also came forward Wednesday in an article published by The Atlantic. She said Franken groped her during a Media Matters party in 2009, after Obama’s first inauguration.
DuPuy wrote she spotted Franken at the party and asked to take a photo with him because her foster mother was one of his fans.
“We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh,” she wrote. “I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice.”
She wrote that the unwanted grope was demeaning.
“It shrunk me. It’s like I was no longer a person, only ornamental. It said, ‘You don’t matter -- and I do,’” she wrote. “He wanted to cop a feel and he demonstrated he didn’t need my permission.”
DuPuy wrote that she thought Franken would resign when allegations first surfaced against him last month. Los Angeles news anchor Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and groping her as she slept during a USO tour in 2006.
Franken apologized for the incident, but as the number of women accusing the congressman grew, so did calls for his resignation. A group of female senators, all Democrats, called for Franken's resignation Wednesday, before DuPuy's accusations were published.
“It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women, and he should resign,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.
Franken is expected to address the reports at a planned news conference Thursday.
Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow. More details to come.— Sen. Al Franken (@SenFranken) December 6, 2017
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:34 PM
The head of the Capitol Hill office which deals with workplace harassment cases said Wednesday that she still does not have the power to reveal the names of lawmakers who used taxpayer dollars to pay legal harassment settlements, drawing sharp rebukes from members of both parties on a House spending panel, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed growing frustration about the matter.
“The transparency issue is revolting,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to let members who abuse their employees hide.”
At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Susan Grundmann, the head of the Congressional Office of Compliance, said that workplace settlements which involve lawmakers, often include non-disclosure agreements, precluding any publicity.
“Most settlement agreements – in fact all that I have seen – contain non-disclosure clauses in them,” said Grundmann. “Those are not by our doing.”
Pressed sharply by both parties at a hearing where she asked for a nine percent budget increase to help deal with harassment training and case reviews, Grundmann made clear there was no plan to reveal the names of members who had engaged in such settlements in the past.
“No, I think we are prohibited from under the law – in terms of the strict confidentiality that adheres to each one of our processes, and the non-disclosure agreements, we cannot disclose who they are,” Grundmann added.
Grundmann said new reporting standards approved by the House would reveal every six months which offices had some type of legal settlements – and she also said that if a lawmaker agreed to a workplace settlement, taxpayers would pay the bill up front – and then have that member of Congress reimburse Uncle Sam within 90 days.
So far, the House and Senate have not finalized an agreement on legislation to set new standards for transparency on workplace settlements involving lawmaker offices, as one leading Democrat today again demanded action by that chamber.
“The Senate has no more excuses,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Back in Wednesday’s House hearing, lawmakers did not like to hear that while reforms in the House would publicly name the lawmaker and/or a top staffer if they were involved in harassment of other staffers, a Senate reform plan would not be as sweeping.
“So, if a Chief of Staff engages in that conduct, or anyone else that isn’t the member, then their conduct is not disclosed?” Wasserman Schultz asked.
“That’s correct,” replied Grundmann.
“That’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Florida Democrat said.
The hearing came days after the resignation of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had taxpayers foot the bill for an $84,000 settlement with a former office employee – Farenthold had promised to pay that money, but now that he is gone, it seems unlikely to happen.
Meanwhile, Grundmann denied press reports in recent weeks that any personal information about sexual harassment or workplace abuses in Congressional offices was left on unsecured computer servers.
“We have not been hacked. We have never stored our data on an unsecured server,” as Grundmann said their computer precautions had been described by officials as “Fort Knox.”
Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 10:02 AM
— Former first lady Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday night, had strong family ties to Dayton and southwest Ohio.
Her grandfather Scott Pierce was one of the founders of the Dayton Rotary Club. Her parents, Marvin Pierce and Pauline Robinson, met at Miami University in Oxford.
When the family lived in New York years later, Marvin would bring Barbara on trips to Dayton when he worked for McCall Corporation. He went on to be the president of McCall’s, the publisher of Redbook and McCall’s.
“When I was four or five years old, my father would take me with him on business trips to Dayton, the site of a McCall plant,” Bush wrote in her memoir.
Marvin was a 1916 graduate of Miami University. He was a standout athlete nicknamed Monk. He played basketball, football, baseball and tennis. He was inducted into the Miami Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.
In her memoir, Bush wrote about her father saying, “Daddy was really bright and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, while at the same time waiting tables and tending furnaces.”
“Miami is where Daddy fell in love with Mother who was studying to be a teacher.”
Pauline and Marvin were married in 1918 in Union County, Ohio.
Pauline was born in Richwood, Ohio, on April 28, 1896. Her father was Ohio Supreme Court Justice James Edgar Robinson.
Pauline died in a car accident in 1949 in Rye, N.Y. When Marvin who was driving the car lost control. She was 53 years old.
Barbara’s brother, Scott Pierce, also attended Miami University. He is 88 years old.
Barbara Bush’s grandfather, Scott Pierce, was an insurance salesman for a while in Dayton.
In her memoir, Bush said her grandfather and grandmother “lost all their money in the 1890s, and my grandfather never recovered. He sold insurance in Dayton, Ohio, but the family lived humbly.”
Pierce was among a group of 16 men who formed the Dayton Rotary Club in 1913 and he became the its first president, according to David Williamson, the club’s historian.
The story goes that during the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Scott Pierce’s teenage daughter Charlotte — Bush’s aunt — became separated from her family and had to ride out the flood waters in the attic of another Rotary member. It was several days before her family got word that she was safe.
Rotary International members then came to Dayton’s rescue, making the flood recovery the organization's first ever national relief effort.
“(Scott Pierce) was a big deal in Dayton Rotary,” Williamson said. Words he wrote are presented to each outgoing club president on a plaque to this day.
Bush’s grandmother Mabel Pierce was born in Hamilton County in 1869 and died in Dayton in 1920. Scott Pierce died in Dayton in 1945.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 3:06 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 3:24 PM
WASHINGTON — The Dayton Development Coalition’s annual fly-in to Washington is typically a pretty locally-driven affair — lots of discussion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Wright Brothers historical sites — but on Wednesday, the conversation briefly veered into a national social issue.
Asked whether he supports outlawing assault rifles, Rep. Warren Davidson, a Troy Republican, delved into a nearly seven-minute response where he argued that banning assault rifles would do very little to reduce a recent spate of mass shootings including a February shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17.
Instead, he argued, people were more likely to be killed by hand-to-hand combat, handguns or blunt objects than rifles. “I’m not in favor of banning them,” he said.
Stepping up to the dais immediately afterward, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, responded quickly. “I just think Congress has not done its job on firearms,” he said, saying that while he believes in the Second Amendment, he thinks Congress is obligated to eliminate loopholes in the gun laws. There is a loophole that requires background checks to purchase guns at gun stores but not at gun shows, a loophole allowing those on the terrorist watch list to buy weapons and a loophole that allows people to modify guns to make them shoot automatically, Brown said.
He said he respects Davidson, but “the NRA pretty much runs this Congress. When it comes to gun safety, we should be passing common sense gun safety laws.”
Their exchange occurred on the final day of the Dayton Development Coalition’s 34th annual fly-in, a three-day event that allows coalition members to come into Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers about the community’s needs. With the state’s only active-duty military base, the Dayton VA Medical Center and the Dayton Aviation National Heritage Park, the Dayton region has a particularly acute reason to pay attention to federal issues.
Multiple lawmakers talked about the opioid epidemic, saying that the epidemic has largely hobbled the available workforce, causing employers to struggle to find qualified workers who can pass a drug test.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, cited research indicating 47 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 55 who are not in the workforce report taking medication on a daily basis. “It means they aren’t even showing up for the drug test,” he said, adding, “Until we get this opioid thing under control, they are not going to be there. They’re literally not looking for work.”
Brown said he’s also focused on the workforce issues connected to the opioid epidemic, and said he’s pushing a bill with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., that would combine various grant programs at the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services to create a six-year pilot project to combine job training and addiction recovery services.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he’s introduced a bill that would restore Medicaid coverage to treat drug addicts who are incarcerated as well as his goal of garnering more federal resources for newborns who are born addicted to opioids.
Turner, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, predicted that there would be no round of base closures this year, but “my guess is sometime around 2020, we’ll see pressure for a BRAC process and our community will be very well-poised for that.” He said Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s biggest challenge will be competing with other services, rather than just fellow Air Force bases; past rounds have largely pitted bases within service branches against one another.
Portman said he’s written a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to urge her to select the base for the F-35 product support integrator office, a project which he said could bring 400 jobs to the base.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 2:18 PM
On hold for months, President Donald Trump’s pick to head NASA was finally given the green light by a pair of GOP Senators, as the Senate voted 50-48 to overcome a possible filibuster, and advance the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next Administrator of NASA.
A final vote to confirm Bridenstine’s nomination could come as early as Thursday in the full Senate.
The key votes came from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – Flake initially voted to filibuster Bridenstine, but after an extended wait, returned to change his vote for the final margin of victory.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Flake – and then Rubio – had changed course on the President’s NASA nominee, as Bridenstine supporters had spent months trying to squeeze out a final vote in support of the President’s choice, who faced determined opposition from Democrats.
Before the vote, Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the decision of the Florida Republican, who had repeatedly rebuffed the calls of fellow GOP lawmakers to support Bridenstine, a more conservative House GOP lawmaker who has not hesitated to make waves during his time on Capitol Hill.
Just before the vote, Bridenstine’s leading Democratic critic in the Senate wasn’t backing away from his stern criticism of the three-term Republican Congressman from Oklahoma.
“The NASA Administrator should be a consummate space professional,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in a speech on the Senate floor.
“That’s what this Senator wants – a space professional – not a politician,” Nelson added.
“Senators on both sides of the aisles have expressed doubts – both publicly and privately to me – about his qualifications for the job,” said Nelson, who was the only Senator to address the matter before the vote on cloture, a procedure to end debate in the Senate.
Since Bridenstine was nominated for NASA Administrator in September, Rubio had sided with Nelson and other Democrats, raising questions about Bridenstine’s ability to run a federal agency in a nonpartisan manner.
But that suddenly changed this week – and GOP leaders quickly moved to take the Bridenstine vote, moving the President a step closer to having his choice in the job as NASA chief.
The procedural vote on Bridenstine’s nomination almost went awry, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted “No,” leaving the vote tied at 49-49.
Ordinarily, the Vice President would be brought in to break the tie, but Vice President Mike Pence was in Florida with President Trump, hosting the Japanese Prime Minister.