Pelosi on sexual harassment in Congress: ‘The system needs to be changed’

Pelosi on sexual harassment in Congress: ‘The system needs to be changed’
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an interview published Saturday that Capitol Hill workplace sexual harassment policies need to change.

Pelosi told The Associated Press that Congress's tendency to self-police and unequal standards between offices for appropriate behavior need to end.

“I think we are at a tipping point in our country,” she said. “For a long time the Congress was a place where every congressional office had its own rules. ... The system needs to be changed.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Her comments come in the wake of accusations against Democratic donor and film mogul Harvey Weinstein that have sparked a wave of sexual harassment and assault revelations in various industries, including in state and national legislatures.

Complaints of inappropriate behavior on Capitol Hill are handled by the Office of Compliance, which requires a lengthy mediation period. This week, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (D-N.Y.) filed a bill that would streamline the system to handle such complaints and allow congressional interns the same resources as regular staffers.

“Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules. The current process has little accountability and even less sensitivity to victims of sexual harassment,” Gillibrand told the AP.

In a separate statement Friday, Gillibrand said her bill would allow staffers to report inappropriate conduct without fear it will "ruin their careers."

"We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers," Gillibrand said in a statement.

"You see time and again in institutions all around the country ... a culture where power and fear keep sexual assault and sexual harassment in the shadows. Congress is no different," she added.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Inside Biden's preparations for first debate MORE (R-Wis.) urged House members on Friday to undergo sexual harassment awareness training and mandate it for their staffs. It is currently offered by the Office of Compliance, but not required.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (R-Iowa) also sent a letter to Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Trump's border funding comes back from the dead MORE (R-Ala.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices MORE (D-Minn.), the top members of the Rules Committee, requesting that they make sexual harassment training mandatory.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Shelby said that "Senator Klobuchar and I are working closely with our colleagues to address the issue in the most effective manner."