Congress is reviewing its sexual harassment policies

11/15/2017 01:06 PM

Members of Congress are reviewing their policies on sexual harassment in the wake of a cascade of allegations involving celebrities and some politicians.

“There are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat that have engaged in sexual harassment,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D- California, during a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Lawmakers detailed accounts of pervasive inappropriate conduct happening in the halls of Congress during the U.S. House of Representatives hearing.

“The young staffer was a young woman, went there and was greeted by a member in a towel. It was a male, who then invited her in, at that point he decided to expose himself,” U.S. Rep. Jean Comstock,R-Virginia, said.

“These harasser propositions such as are you going to be a good girl, to perpetrators exposing their genitals to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor,” said Speier.

Congresswoman Speier knows just how bad the situation is sharing her own assault story on Twitter earlier this month.

She’s now leading the charge to streamline the system for handling complaints on Capitol Hill.

”The present system may have been okay in the dark ages, it is not appropriate for the 21st century.”

Current rules require victims on Capitol Hill to submit to mediation and counseling before filing a complaint with the Office of Compliance. It’s a process that can stretch on for months while they remain at work with the alleged perpetrator.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Caroline, a member of the committee says Congressional members should be personally liable for sexual harassment settlements. As of now, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook — the confidential payments come out of a special U.S. Treasury Fund.

“These settlements should be made, not only be paid for by the member, but they should also be made public,” Walker said.

The Senate last week approved a resolution instituting mandatory harassment training for members and aides. The House is expected to follow suit.

“I really feel that it’s important for us to move forward not just with training but to move forward with a comprehensive reform of the office of the compliance,” Speier said.

Speier is currently drafting a bill to reform the complaint filing process. New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is heading up that effort in the Senate.

Both lawmakers have yet to draw GOP co-sponsors for the legislation which is expected to be formally introduced later this week.

Reporting by Spectrum News’ Samantha-Jo Roth.

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