Olympics reform bill passes House after abuse scandals rocked sports

Born out of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the gymnastics world and toppled the leadership at the USOPC, the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act empowers Congress to decertify individual sports’ governing bodies and dissolve the USOPC’s board of directors. It also calls for better athlete representation in governing bodies and more funding for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit charged by Congress with policing sexual abuse in Olympic sports. Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), co-sponsor of the House bill, called it a potential “sea change.”

“We know from the Larry Nassar scandal and other scandals that we have to make the entire Olympic system much more athlete-centered,” Lieu said in a telephone interview.

Lawmakers from both parties have said they hope Trump will quickly sign it into law. A White House spokesman this week declined to comment on the president’s plans.

The bill effectively means that Congress will keep close watch on Olympic organizations, receiving annual reports and audits, and will be poised to take further action, if needed.

“Laws are dead letter and worse than worthless if they are not effectively enforced,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a co-sponsor in the Senate, said in a phone interview. “So I want to make sure Congress continues its strong oversight. …If there’s a need for more reform, I will have no reluctance to advocate more measures. I have no illusions that this legislation is the end of the story or that it’s a perfect solution. We’ve done our best on this first set of reforms, and I think it’s designed to change the culture and character of these agencies, as well as the culture of sport.”

Some of the biggest potential changes might not be known for months or longer. The bill calls for the creation of a bipartisan commission that will conduct a top-to-to-bottom review of the USOPC and the complicated system of Olympic sports. The group will report its findings to Congress, which could result in a more substantial overhaul of the Olympic framework in the United States, scrutinizing everything from the economic model to the spiderweb of governance.

“It’s gonna send shockwaves through the system,” said Olympian Eli Bremer, a former pentathlete and outspoken critic of the USOPC. “I think there is going to be a lot of changes that come out of this, and some pieces will take a bit of time to understand their true impact.”

Bremer is part of the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOPC, an advocacy group that worked with lawmakers on the text of the bill, which marks Congress’s most significant Olympic-related undertaking in years. The Amateur Sports Act was originally passed in 1978, empowering the USOPC, and was updated and expanded in 1998.

“The entire system back then was around $1 million, not really big,” Bremer said of the 1978 legislation. “Now it’s probably half a billion to a billion with all the [national governing bodies]. It’s time to start rethinking the system.”

Congress would appoint the

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House panel approves FAA reform bill after Boeing 737 MAX crashes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. House of Representatives committee on Wednesday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to reform the Federal Aviation Administration’s aircraft certification process after two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the House would vote on the sweeping reform measure later this year.

The Boeing Co BA.N 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019. Among other reforms, the bill requires that an expert panel evaluate Boeing’s safety culture and recommend improvements.

“Those crashes were the inevitable culmination of stunning acts and omissions within Boeing and the (FAA),” DeFazio said at a hearing.

He said the FAA had failed to properly ensure the safety of the 737 MAX, and called aircraft certification “a broken system that broke the public’s trust.”

Boeing and the FAA have declined to comment on the legislation.

The bill would require American aircraft manufacturers to adopt safety management systems and complete system safety assessments for significant design changes, ensure that risk calculations are based on realistic assumptions of pilot response time, and share risk assessments with the FAA.

A report released last week by House Transportation committee Democrats found that the 737 MAX crashes were the “horrific culmination” of failures by Boeing and the FAA and called for urgent reforms.

The House bill would extend airline whistleblower protections to U.S. manufacturing employees, require FAA approval of new workers who are performing delegated certification tasks for the agency, and impose civil penalties on those who interfere with the performance of FAA-authorized duties.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is conducting an evaluation flight at the controls of a 737 MAX in Seattle, a key milestone as the U.S. planemaker works to win approval for the aircraft to resume flights.

Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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The House’s stake in filibuster reform

A spate of articles over the summer from Richard Arenberg, Norm Ornstein and Ronald Brownstein, as well as remarks by former President Barack Obama at the funeral of Rep. John LewisJohn LewisHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Underwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel Trump to pay respects to Ginsburg at Supreme Court MORE, have fueled a vigorous debate over the merits, liabilities and necessity of ending (or modifying) the Senate’s filibuster tradition. Should Democrats win this November’s trifecta and control the White House, House of Representatives and the Senate, precious little of a Biden agenda will see the light of day in any recognizable form if it must surmount Rule 22’s 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

Historically, requiring a supermajority to end Senate debate was intended to provide the minority at least one step in the legislative process to flex its muscle and force concessions. But the filibuster no longer is employed to address the minority’s understandable frustration at being at a legislative disadvantage. Filled with what former Sen. Byron Dorgan described as “100 human brake pads,” the current filibuster doesn’t pause the process to allow the minority to engage; it kills the process dead in its tracks. What the Senate needs is fewer brake pads and more an ignition switch.

But even if it functioned as intended, the filibuster enables a dangerous and anti-democratic distortion of the functioning of Congress. The Senate is already a patently undemocratic institution merely due to its constitutional design. When the Constitution was ratified, the ratio between the largest and smallest states — each having two senators — was 17:1. Today, that ratio has swelled to 70:1, and while large and small states do not break down as reliably favoring one party, the power of a large number of small states to influence the legislation affecting the vast majority of Americans defies the basic principles of democratic governance.

The filibuster exacerbates the undemocratic nature of the Senate by undermining equity between the two houses of the Congress. Specifically, disproportionate power in the Senate undermines the influence of people of color and women who are far more significantly represented in the House. By creating what is often, in a closely divided and ideologically partisan Senate, a nearly insurmountable barrier to passing legislation, the filibuster gives senators the ability to pressure House members, and the diverse constituencies they represent, to either accept whatever version of legislation can squeak its way through the Senate or accept the inevitability of inaction.

Senators might complain about the problems the filibuster presents, but they also relish the parliamentary advantage the 60-vote margin affords them over the House. Every House member involved in negotiations with the Senate has been told the House version is dead on arrival in the Senate, and the House must take whatever can get 60 votes in the Senate. Those

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House Democrats unveil reform package to ‘prevent future presidential abuses’

House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping reform package to impose new checks on presidential power and potential wrongdoing in the executive branch, while toughening enforcement of ethics rules and congressional subpoenas — proposals they believe are necessary to “prevent future presidential abuses” and “restore checks and balances” to government after nearly four years of battles with President Trump and the White House.

Nancy Pelosi wearing a blue shirt: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 23, 2020.

© Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 23, 2020.

Drafted by party leaders at the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the 158-page proposal would add new reporting requirements to the president’s use of the pardon power, and amend federal bribery law to include offering or granting of a pardon or commutation.


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(MORE: President Trump commutes sentence of longtime friend, adviser Roger Stone) (MORE: Trump’s impeachment trial: How we got here, what happens next and what to watch)

Democrats liken the package to the series of post-Watergate reforms passed in the wake of President Richard Nixon’s resignation – which included changes to campaign finance regulations, added oversight to the intelligence community and transparency to government with the Freedom of Information Act.

“The rule of law applies to every person in this country, including the president and members of the administration,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said Tuesday at a news conference with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and other senior Democrats to roll out the package.

“We owe it to the American people to put meaningful constraints on power, fix what is broken, and ensure that there is never again another Richard Nixon or Donald Trump from either party,” Schiff said. “Even in a dangerous world, the threat to our democracy from outside the country is less than the threat from within.”

The package would suspend the statute of limitations for any federal crime committed by a sitting president or vice president – before or during terms in office – while making it more difficult for a president to profit off of the presidency, codifying the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and beefing up enforcement of any violations.

It would add new insulation between the Justice Department and White House to prevent political interference in law enforcement matters. It would require the attorney general to maintain a log of contacts between the White House and DOJ, and mandate reporting to the DOJ inspector general.

Donald Trump standing in front of a crowd: President Donald Trump charges up the crowd while speaking of the need to win the upcoming election during a campaign rally at the Toledo Express Airport on Sept. 21, 2020 in Swanton, Ohio.

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President Donald Trump charges up the crowd while speaking of the need to win the upcoming election during a campaign rally at the Toledo Express Airport on Sept. 21, 2020 in Swanton, Ohio.

After struggling for years with the Trump administration’s resistance to congressional oversight, House Democrats would add teeth to their subpoenas — setting up an expedited process for the House and Senate to enforce subpoenas in civil court and greater penalties for noncompliance. Their proposal would also toughen

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