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

Brian Murphy, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

It drew a crowd. Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News host whose sexual harassment lawsuit against chairman Roger Ailes resulted in Ailes' resignation and a $20 million settlement between Fox and Carlson, attended the hearing. So did Dorena Bertussi, who filed the first successful sexual harassment claim against a congressman in 1988.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has introduced the ME TOO Congress Act, along with 109 co-sponsors, to amend the 1995 law. Though not on the committee, Speier was invited to question witnesses with formal committee members.

"I don't think it goes far enough," Speier said of her own legislation, adding that she believes an independent entity, outside of the House, is needed to investigate claims.

A companion Senate bill -- introduced in mid-November by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and co-sponsored by 11 Democrats, and no Republicans -- has not received a committee hearing.

The House and the Senate did pass separate resolutions last month mandating that all members, staff and aides undergo sexual harassment training.

That's led to a surge in the number of people taking Congress' Office of Compliance's online sexual harassment training course. Five people took the course in September. In October, it was 618. In November, more than 4,000 people took the course, according to Susan Grundmann, the office's executive director.

"People are finally taking it seriously," she said.

The furor over harassment shows few signs of fading, as Democrats push for changes while Republicans face new controversies.

Only one Republican representative -- Barbara Comstock of Virginia, who represents a suburban Washington swing district -- has called on Farenthold to resign.


In the Senate, many Republicans have denounced Moore, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who said Moore, if elected, would face an ethics investigation. Maverick Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona donated $500 to Moore's Democratic opponent, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said he did not vote for Moore.

Franken is the second high-profile Democrat to resign this week, joining Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, who announced his departure Tuesday after several women accused him of sexual harassment. Conyers paid $27,000 from his office budget to settle a claim, but denied the allegations.

Franken pointed to the differences between his actions and Republicans in his resignation speech. He cited President Donald Trump, who withstood more than a dozen allegations from women during his successful campaign, and Moore.

"I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party," Franken said.

Only one Republican, Flake, was present during Franken's speech, saying the Democrat was a "friend." More than two dozen Democrats, including many of the women who Wednesday called for their fellow senator to step down, were on hand and many embraced Franken after the speech.

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