Senate reaches deal on new sexual harassment policy

Senate reaches deal on new sexual harassment policy
© Greg Nash

Senators are planning to unveil new legislation overhauling the chamber's sexual harassment policies as soon as Tuesday.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms GOP senator disinvited to Republican event over vote against Trump's emergency declaration Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (R-Mo.) said that both he and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharCNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina Howard Schultz to be featured in Fox News town hall The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE (Minn.), who has been leading talks for the Democrats, briefed their respective caucuses during weekly policy lunches. 

"I think we'll have legislation prepared by the end of the day today, and she and I will jointly put out some sort of outline on what we've talked to our members about today sometime later this afternoon," Blunt said.

Blunt and Klobuchar hadn't released a framework for the deal, or the text of legislation, as of Tuesday evening. A Senate aide didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on updated timing of the legislation. 

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But that legislation, according to Blunt, would reform the reporting process for victims of sexual harassment and would make members of Congress personally liable for any settlements.

"In the current law the victim in a harassment situation has to have 30 days of counseling, then there was another 30 day period where you had to have mandatory arbitration and then a 30 day cooling-off period ... We will be eliminating those things. And members for harassment will have personal liability," Blunt added. 

Currently, sexual harassment settlements involving lawmakers are paid by using taxpayer funding from a little-known Treasury account. 

The Washington Post reported in December that the Treasury Department has spent $174,000 on settling harassment-related claims over the last five years.

Senators have been privately negotiating on legislation to overhaul the Congressional Accountability Act, with Blunt and Klobuchar indicating as late as Monday evening that they were close to an agreement. 

Klobuchar said on Tuesday that the legislation involves "major reforms to the process" and that she received "positive" feedbacks from Democrats during their closed-door meeting. 

"We hope to be announcing and putting this language out very shortly," she said.

A House bill passed in February would reform the Congressional Accountability Act and put lawmakers on the hook for any settlement payments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (R-Ky.) hasn't specified when he will bring the legislation up on the floor but indicated that lawmakers were "very close" to an agreement that "hopefully everybody will be able to sign off on." 

"I think it's safe to say that we're very close and hope to move forward quickly," he said.

Blunt added that he and Klobuchar needed to "compare notes" after the separate party lunches but "it would be great if we could get this done before Memorial Day break." 

— Updated at 7:55 p.m.