Senate's female members push for harassment vote

Thursday, 29 Mar, 2018

The letter, sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, was spearheaded by Democratic Sens.

All 22 women in the Senate on Wednesday signed a letter to party leaders urging them to call a vote on legislation to update workplace misconduct rules, Politico reports.

The House bill, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, attempts to create an equal playing field for those making harassment complainants while also imposing personal accountability on the accused. "It's time to rewrite the Congressional Accountability Act and update the process through which survivors seek justice".

The letter comes as lawmakers continue reacting to allegations of sexual harassment that have swept Congress and the entertainment, media and other industries. The Senate still hasn't taken up the measure, and women in the Senate have had enough.

In a written statement, Schumer said: "We strongly agree that the Senate should quickly take up legislation to combat sexual harassment on Capitol Hill". While it remains to be seen how Senate leadership will move forward in light of this new letter, Schumer told CNN last week, "It's a very important issue and we're going to get something done in the next little while".

The House approved legislation in February requiring lawmakers found culpable of violations to reimburse the treasury within 90 days if they have used federal money to pay claims against them.

There are 18 Democratic and four Republican women senators. But all 22 female U.S. Senators (yes, there are only 22) have banded together in hopes of changing the way sexual harassment and misconduct is handled on Capitol Hill.

David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said he didn't know when a bipartisan group would finish crafting a Senate bill. While this training requirement was a significant step to address workplace harassment, there was broad, bipartisan agreement at that time that more had to be done to support survivors. "Kirsten Gillibrand of NY stating that "[the Senate's] inaction stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives". The senators argue that more needs to be done to address the over a decade-old statute - referred to as the Congressional Accountability Act - that limits the ability of victims to pursue immediate legal action.

The senators said the chamber should give victims the same resources available to House staffers, like free legal representation. But the effort has stalled in the Senate as lawmakers have disputed provisions holding members personally liable for paying harassment settlements and making the information open to the public. Senate staff who face similar harassment or discrimination must pay personally for legal representation or represent themselves through complicated legal proceedings.