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John Conyers and Nancy Pelosi in February. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

Capitol Hill veterans expect that "a lot more" sexual-harassment settlements by lawmakers will be uncovered. So now there's a race to strengthen workplace rules that are scandalously archaic.

The big picture: The existing system is a racket. Settlements are secret, and the Ethics Committee is notorious for protecting its own. We — as in all of us taxpayers — pay the hush money, because that's who foots the bills for these settlements. Only a few lawmakers have publicly pushed for broad, quick change.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the House's longest-serving member, is being allowed to go slowly after accusations became public. Conyers announced that he's stepping aside as top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while he's investigated by the Ethics Committee.

  • Congressional sources say there's no chance he'll return to the post. He may even leave Congress after the Ethics Committee completes its investigation.
  • This is bicameral: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is going back to work today.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi complicated her party's position by making supportive comments about Conyers during a live appearance on "Meet the Press" ("an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women"), and even questioning the accusers: "I don't know who they are. Do you?"

  • She later added on Twitter: "Zero tolerance means consequences. ... No matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment."
  • A senior Democratic aide said Pelosi had worked with Conyers for five days to lay a path where he would step aside as ranking member.
  • Pelosi had the complication of dealing with someone who "has often appeared disoriented," according to the N.Y. Times, and showed up in pajamas on "at least two separate occasions — once at a United Automobile Workers event in Michigan and once at a meeting of top Democrats on Capitol Hill."

Change is coming. The Senate passed a resolution mandating annual anti-harassment training for senators and staff. The House will vote this week on mandatory sexual-harassment training for members and staff, with an Administration Committee hearing Dec. 7 on further protections for staff.

  • But watch for some lawmakers to resist changes to their secretive processes.

Be smart: Under longtime precedent, House members have been allowed to set the policies for their own workplaces (why John Boehner could smoke in his office after it was banned in the Capitol). This has fostered abuse, and leaders must now make the kind of changes that Congress rarely makes.

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Go deeper

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Updated 5 hours ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

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