GOP rep loses spot on Ethics Committee over sexual harassment settlement

GOP rep loses spot on Ethics Committee over sexual harassment settlement
© Keren Carrion

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan (R) is being removed from his assignment on the House Ethics Committee after The New York Times reported that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former staffer.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE's (R-Wis.) spokeswoman AshLee Strong told The Hill in a statement that Ryan was "immediately" moving to strip Meehan's committee position, and had directed him to repay the full cost of the settlement to taxpayers.

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“Speaker Ryan takes the allegations against Mr. Meehan very seriously. The speaker is committed to rooting out sexual misconduct in the House and providing victims the resources they need. The House is set to pass major bipartisan reform to the way the House handles claims of sexual harassment, and the speaker will apply these new standards to the allegations made against Mr. Meehan," Strong said.

"Following a conversation with the Speaker today, Mr. Meehan will immediately submit himself to the Ethics Committee for review," she added. "The new reforms going into place bar the use of taxpayer money to pay settlements, and so the speaker has also told Mr. Meehan that he should repay whatever taxpayer funds were used to settle this case."

"In addition," Strong said, "Mr. Meehan is being immediately removed from the House Ethics Committee."

The statement from Ryan's office comes after the Times reported that Meehan allegedly grew hostile when a former aide did not accept his romantic overtures.

The pushback from Meehan and subsequent investigation destroyed the woman's life, the Times reports, forcing her to move back in with her parents amid mounting legal fees. She eventually settled with Meehan through the Office of Compliance, receiving a payout said to be in the thousands, though the total amount has not been made public. 

The settlement was paid from Meehan's congressional office fund, meaning it could be disguised as salary and reported months later. Meehan's communications director told the Times in a statement that the lawmaker “denies these allegations.”

Last year, the former longest-serving House lawmaker, Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersDemocrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill Virginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) stepped down after a similar settlement was uncovered.

Drew McGinty, a Democrat running against Meehan in the 2018 midterm elections, called on the lawmaker to immediately resign over the reported use of taxpayer dollars to settle the complaint.
 
"Meehan was voted in to advocate for the best interests of the 7th district, but instead used his power to personally and financially attack a staffer. His actions are appalling and today I am calling on Meehan to immediately resign from Congress," McGinty said in a statement.