McCarthy: ‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual harassment

McCarthy: ‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual harassment
© Greg Nash
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy34 House Republicans demand DACA action this year GOP leaders agree to consider Dec. 30 spending bill House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama MORE (R-Calif.) wants Congress to revisit its internal policies to prevent sexual harassment on a yearly basis, pledging “zero tolerance” for misbehavior among members and staff going forward.
 
McCarthy told The Hill in an interview for the weekly Power Politics podcast that he is unaware of any more sexual harassment claims against members of Congress, but he pledged more action in the future. The House on Wednesday passed a resolution mandating training to prevent harassment.
 
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“It’s not something that we’re going to write a bill and walk away from. I think this should be a yearly review of the process. Do we have the best practices in place? And it’s something we should come back to every year and look,” McCarthy said. “There should be zero tolerance. I get upset when I read back finding out later of a settlement that people don’t know, of individuals who are serving here and their leadership defending them.”
 
McCarthy said he has already required his staff to undergo training, and that he himself has completed the training as well.
 
“You should not hide if there’s a payment. You should not tolerate it, in any place or form. If you are notified about it, you should make sure to investigate it. You can’t allow that activity to happen here in the House,” he said.
 
House leaders have pressured Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersAbortion-rights group endorses Nadler in race to replace Conyers on Judiciary Democrats turn on Al Franken Michigan state senator to run for Congress MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) to resign after revelations that he settled sexual harassment claims in the past, and after new allegations have surfaced. Some Democrats have called on Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenDemocrats turn on Al Franken Schumer called, met with Franken and told him to resign Overnight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 MORE (D-Minn.) to step down, after six women accused him of inappropriate behavior before and during his time in Congress.
 
But outside watchdogs say Congress’s current system for dealing with harassment — a process that involves the Office of Compliance and perhaps the Ethics committees — remains unacceptably opaque.
 
“If they were to stop at training, no one will believe they have done their jobs,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “If you have training without any sense that there will be real accountability, then it’s not going to make any sort of dent.”
 
McCarthy said harassment is not a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats in state legislatures across the country have been accused, and in some cases resigned their positions after allegations of improper behavior.
 
McCarthy praised House Administration Committee chairman Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperMcCarthy: ‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual harassment Taxpayers funded GOP lawmaker’s K sex harassment settlement: report Ethics panel asks for details of past harassment cases against serving lawmakers MORE (R-Miss.); Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockHouse Republican backs bill to overhaul DC Metro Poll: Voters in vulnerable GOP districts oppose tax bill Giffords targets 8 Republicans on conceal and carry in new ads MORE (R-Va.), who authored the mandatory training resolution; Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Elaine Chao: Women can't let harassment hold them back GOP lawmaker says he'll repay cost of harassment settlement MORE (D-Calif.), who has been outspoken about the harassment she has faced; and Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneOvernight Finance: GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands | Senate panel approves Fed nominee Powell | Dodd-Frank rollback advances | WH disputes report Mueller subpoenaed Trump bank records McCarthy: ‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual harassment House conservatives cast doubt on GOP leaders' shutdown strategy MORE (R-Ala.), who worked on harassment cases as a lawyer before coming to Congress. He said Harper has pledged more hearings on harassment are to come.
 
“We’ve got to look and make sure we have the right protections here, that everybody’s protected. Remember, we are a microcosm of society, so anything good or bad that’s happening in society could be happening right here,” McCarthy said. 
 
McCarthy said a part of a better training regimen includes acknowledging an evolving society, in which behavior that might once have been acceptable is no longer treated as such.
 
“It is a changing society. How we go about carrying out our work today is different because of social media. How people interact and the jokes they tell to one another, sometime in a different era may be viewed as okay and today it’s not. Are those individuals being trained and educated on what’s proper inside?” McCarthy said.
 
Goss Graves, of the National Women’s Law Center, called for reforms that would extend new transparency to the complaint and settlement process.
 
“The public needs to understand what it looks like as well. It cannot just be that entirely closed off process where no one knows anything about how they’re making decisions. They’re not going to inspire confidence,” Goss Graves said.
 
Power Politics, hosted by Alexis Simendinger, airs weekly on Saturday
 
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