US Senate approves bill to address Capitol Hill sexual harassment

Lawrence Kim
May 25, 2018

The House of Representatives passed its own version of the legislation in February.

"We've done everything we can to be strong here", Klobuchar said.

"Today's announcement of a bipartisan deal in the Senate that would finally end a system created to protect harassers in the halls of Congress is an important step forward", she said.

The legislation also does away with archaic congressional rules that force victims of sexual harassment to undergo counseling, mandatory arbitration, and wait for a 30-day "cooling off" period before taking a complaint to court.

"Members of Congress should be held accountable for their discriminatory conduct, but instead this bill appears to provide numerous opportunities to evade responsibility, while also failing to offer Senate professional staff the same kind of legal counsel and support that members of Congress receive", said Vania Leveille, the ACLU's senior legislative counsel.

The bill would require members of Congress to personally pay for any settlements to victims in cases where they are the alleged harasser.

Now in the United States, sexual harassment settlements involving lawmakers are paid by a Treasury account using taxpayers funding.

California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, one of the chief negotiators of the House's bill said that there is "disappointment" in Senate's bill among some members on both sides of the aisle in the House.

Blunt said Thursday that he hasn't gotten feedback from House GOP leadership but predicted they wouldn't need to formally go to conference to work out the differences between the House and Senate legislation. The Senate bill would also cap lawmaker liability at $300,000 and would only hold members liable for "compensatory damages".

WASHINGTON ― Civil rights groups contend a new Senate bill that is supposed to crack down on sexual harassers in Congress is full of problems and lets lawmakers off the hook too easily.

The bipartisan legislation, which had more than 40 co-sponsors in the 100-seat Senate, would also make public the harassment settlements and the lawmakers involved, automatically refer such settlements to the Senate Ethics Committee and more closely track allegations of harassment within the U.S. Capitol.

The Senate deal would route settlements involving "an allegation of a violation" to the Ethics panels for further inquiry and approval of possible reimbursement by lawmakers. The House bill calls for semiannual reports. "It will strengthen procedures available to victims of workplace sexual harassment, and - critically - puts an end to the shameful practice of taxpayer-funded secret settlements by members of Congress".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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