McCarthy: ‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual harassment

McCarthy: ‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual harassment
© Greg Nash
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 ConyersBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary Tlaib holds lead in early vote count against primary challenger 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 FrankenGOP Senate candidate says Trump, Republicans will surprise in Minnesota Peterson faces fight of his career in deep-red Minnesota district Getting tight — the psychology of cancel culture 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 HarperCongress sends bill overhauling sexual harassment policy to Trump's desk Dems cry foul in undecided N.C. race Mississippi New Members 2019 MORE (R-Miss.); Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (R-Va.), who authored the mandatory training resolution; Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (D-Calif.), who has been outspoken about the harassment she has faced; and Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneBottom line Jerry Carl wins GOP Alabama runoff to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne Jeff Sessions loses comeback bid in Alabama runoff 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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