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House-Passed Sexual Harassment Bill Takes Taxpayers Off the Hook

House-Passed Sexual Harassment Bill Takes Taxpayers Off the Hook

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier at a Nov. 15 press conference on sexual harassment in Congress. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 07 February 2018 07:31 AM

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sexual harassment bill on Tuesday that would force members of Congress to pay settlements involving them out of their own pockets. It followed revelations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret payments at taxpayer expense.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, bars representatives and senators from using their office budgets to pay any sexual harassment settlements, following criticism that some members had used taxpayers' money to pay off sexual harassment victims, USA Today reported.

The House Office of Compliance revealed that taxpayers paid more than $342,000 to settle workplace discrimination disputes at House lawmakers' offices between 2008 and 2012, including nearly $175,000 for eight settlements related to sexual harassment and sex discrimination accusations.

The information revealed a $84,000 sexual harassment payment on behalf of Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold. Before announcing that he won't seek re-election, Farenthold pledged to pay back the amount of his settlement.

The Hill reported that a former aide of former Democratic Rep. John Conyers received $27,000 in installments from Conyers' office budget after she accused him of sexual harassment.

Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan reportedly paid an undisclosed amount out of his office funds to a former female aide who claimed the lawmaker retaliated against her after she rejected his advances, The New York Times reported.

The Office of Compliance information revealed three previously undisclosed settlements for sexual harassment. It did not identify the lawmakers' offices involved or name the accusers. It was not clear whether the cases involved accusations against a lawmaker or a member of their staff.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California led the charge for the bill along with Republican Reps. Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Barbara Comstock of Virginia.

"There is no place for sexual harassment, or any type of harassment, period," Harper, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said before the House took up bill, which passed by a voice vote, USA Today said.

Last month, House Speak Paul Ryan praised the House's effort to get the bill passed, NBC News reported.

"This past fall, we pledged to enhance the workplace safety of Congress, and today's bipartisan legislation brings us one step closer to fulfilling that promise," the Wisconsin Republican said. "It ensures that victims of workplace harassment have the resources they need to get the justice they deserve.

"No staffer or member should ever feel unsafe in public service, and this bill will help make that a reality," Ryan added.

"This bipartisan legislation is a shining example of how Congress should work,'' said Rep. Bradley Byrne, who practices employment law in Alabama, per USA Today. "Republicans and Democrats came together to bring the congressional workplace into the 21st century and ensure that Congress plays by the same rules as the private sector."

In the past month, The Associated Press reported, six lawmakers have been forced to resign, retire or abandon plans to seek re-election after each was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior: Reps. Farenthold, Ruben Kihuen and Joe Barton have said they won't run again, while Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Conyers of Michigan announced their resignations.

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sexual harassment bill on Tuesday that would force members of Congress to pay settlements involving them out of their own pockets. It followed revelations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret payments at taxpayer expense.
house, passes, sexual harassment, bill
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2018-31-07
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 07:31 AM
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