Senate approves sexual harassment bill covering Congress

Senate approves sexual harassment bill covering Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised a bipartisan proposal to reform the way workplace discrimination and sexual harassment claims are handled on Capitol Hill. The House of Representatives passed its own version of the legislation in February.

"Hardworking taxpayers should not foot the bill for a member's misconduct, and victims should not have to navigate a system that stands in the way of accountability", Republican Senator Roy Blunt said in a statement with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.

The bipartisan bill would get rid of the required 30-day "counseling" period, 30-day mediation phase, and 30-day "cooling off" period accusers must go through before seeking an investigation.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

But critics say the bill doesn't go far enough to hold lawmakers accountable and protect staff members from misconduct and discrimination.

Currently, there is a congressional fund that pays for harassment settlements, including those involving the conduct of House and Senate lawmakers.

"We are now reviewing the Senate bill, and discussing next steps", said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDischarge petition efforts intensify as leadership seeks unity Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on MORE (R-Wis.). It also requires members of Congress to repay the Treasury for harassment and discrimination settlements. They said the chamber, after falling months behind the House, sped the new bill through in just one day, short-circuiting lawmakers' chances to study what they were voting on.

Blunt said the Senate measure improves on the House bill and Klobuchar told reporters that it will have personal liability requirements like the House but declined to provide specifics.

Anti-harassment advocates also questioned the Senate's timing.

They argued that in the small world of Capitol Hill, this could have a chilling effect on reporting by staff if they know their name and information may be shared with lawmakers whom they may interact with in their work.

Now in the United States, sexual harassment settlements involving lawmakers are paid by a Treasury account using taxpayers funding.

"A Member who has committed wrongdoing should be liable for all damages negotiated in a settlement or awarded by a court; they should not be shielded from the consequences of their actions", they wrote.
That would give the House and Senate Ethics committees new responsibilities, including reviewing the settlements of harassment claims against members within 90 days.

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