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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 ConyersFormer campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer Kavanaugh controversy has led to politicization of 'Me Too,' says analyst Sexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points 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 FrankenMinnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post Former campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer Prosecutor drops some charges against Harvey Weinstein 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 HarperGOP lawmakers urge improvements to cyber vulnerabilities resource Bipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis Republican chairman wants FTC to review mergers of drug price negotiators MORE (R-Miss.); Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockElection Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas GOP lawmaker suggests male Dem leaked Ford’s confidential letter Dems look to women to take back the House after Kavanaugh fight MORE (R-Va.), who authored the mandatory training resolution; Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierFemale House Dems urge Senate to delay Kavanaugh testimony for FBI investigation Election Countdown: Kavanaugh allegations put GOP in tough spot | Republicans start to pull plug on candidates | Dems get early start in Iowa | O'Rourke defends Cruz after protesters interrupt dinner | Why Biden is the Democrat GOP most fears Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage MORE (D-Calif.), who has been outspoken about the harassment she has faced; and Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus House votes to overhaul fishery management law The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Expensive and brutal: Inside the Supreme Court fight ahead 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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