Congress sends bill overhauling sexual harassment policy to Trump’s desk

Greg Nash

The House unanimously passed legislation on Thursday to overhaul how Congress handles sexual harassment claims, sending the long-stalled effort to President Trump’s desk.

The Senate passed the bill a few hours earlier, less than one day after the two chambers finally struck a deal on the bipartisan legislation. Negotiators had been scrambling to get the measure over the finish line before the end of the year.

“I am not as concerned about the delay as I am complimentary of the fact we never gave up, that we worked through this process,” Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the outgoing chairman of the House Administration Committee, said at a press conference after the House vote.

“While we always want everything done yesterday, we really wanted to get it done before this Congress. And we did that.”

Trump is expected to sign the measure in the near future, Harper added.

{mosads}The final agreement on the bill, which will reform the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, comes as the “Me Too” movement has rocked Capitol Hill in recent months.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) stepped down last year after several women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct and after a growing number of his female colleagues called for him to step aside.

Several lawmakers — including former Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) — also used official funds to settle harassment claims.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have been pushing for legislation to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, but were split over how to hold members accountable.

The compromise would make lawmakers personally liable for harassment and retaliation settlements they personally commit, even if they leave office.

The provision was a key sticking point between the House and Senate. The House’s bill would have made members personally liable for both harassment and discrimination settlements.

It would also eliminate a 30-day counseling period, a 30-day mediation phase and a 30-day “cooling off” period required for victims of sexual harassment under the Congressional Accountability Act.

And it would require an annual report on settlements, including noting if a member was personally liable and automatically awards settlements involving members or senior staff to the House and Senate ethics committees. 

Tags Al Franken Blake Farenthold Donald Trump Gregg Harper

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