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Democrats force out their own for sexual harassment while Republicans sit tight

Brian Murphy, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Democrats are moving swiftly and forcefully to remove congressional colleagues accused of sexual misconduct. Republicans are doing little but talking.

Democrats on Thursday saw a second party lawmaker fall as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he would resign after being accused by several women of sexual harassment -- and urged to quit by many Democratic senators.

Democrats are pushing legislation to bar non-disclosure settlements of sexual harassment cases involving members of Congress or their staffs. Currently such settlements are secret.

Republicans, who control both Houses of Congress, have not scheduled the bills for even a committee vote.

GOP ranks continue to include Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who paid $84,000 as a settlement to a woman who accused him of sexual harassment, with virtually no pressure coming from GOP lawmakers to push him out of the House.

And the party's Senate contingent could soon include Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl when he was in his 30s. Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday's special election.

 

Republicans talked a lot about harassment Thursday as a GOP-run House committee considered changes to a 22-year-old law dictating how Congress handles allegations against members. Nothing was decided.

Republicans on the House Administration Committee on Thursday offered strong words condemning sexual harassment, but few legislative solutions seem likely to be seriously considered anytime soon.

"There is no place for sexual harassment in our society, especially in Congress. Period," said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., the committee chairman. "And one case of sexual harassment is one case too many."

As chairman, Harper must sign off on settlements involving Congress without knowing full details, which are kept secret under terms of the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act. Thursday's hearing was to look at possible changes to the act.

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