House adopts rules to curb sexual harassment

Katherine Tully-McManus, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

The measure answers calls from both sides of the aisle to end the use of taxpayer dollars to pay out harassment settlements against lawmakers.

"For years members of Congress have gotten away with truly egregious behavior," Speier said. "Members, yes, members are going to be held responsible for their bad behavior."

The bill would require members of Congress to personally pay for any settlements to victims in cases where they are the alleged harasser. Members would have 90 days to repay the Treasury for the amount of the award or settlement before their salary would be withheld.

The bill would require the workplace rights office each year to publish each award or settlement paid the previous year that involves CAA violations in addition to a report on all payments made with taxpayer funds prior to the bill's enactment. It does not require disclosure of the House or Senate offices involved in past instances, however.

"I still do believe we need to disclose the past names that are still unknown," said Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, urging the disclosure of all past sexual harassment settlements and the names of the lawmakers implicated.

The House-passed measure will now head to the Senate, where its fate is not clear. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said Monday that "there are some changes we want to see" before moving the House bill, but didn't provide details on proposed changes. She suggested that anti-harassment legislation could hitch a ride on an eventual omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2018.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, has sponsored a wide-ranging bill called the ME TOO Act, after the hashtag #MeToo on social media. The House version of the proposal served as a starting point and a blueprint for the bill the House passed Tuesday.

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