Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress

Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress

Greg Nash

Under those rules, staffers who allege harassment are now required to complete a 30-day counseling period and a separate mediation which also typically lasts about 30 days.

The bill would require members of Congress to personally pay for any settlements to victims in cases where they are the alleged harasser. It lets lawmakers hide past discrimination settlements they've paid for with taxpayer money. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who launched the talks following a string of accusations against members of Congress. Senate leaders have not committed to a timeline for voting on the bill. It now must be fused with a slightly different bill that the House of Representatives passed.

"Today's announcement of a bipartisan deal in the Senate that would finally end a system created to protect harassers in the halls of Congress is an important step forward", she said.

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The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to overhaul the way Congress deals with sexual harassment in its ranks, a response to the #MeToo movement that swept the nation and forced several lawmakers to resign under a cloud of misconduct allegations. "We want to equalize that so that the victim has protections as well".

In an exclusive joint interview with CNN, Klobuchar and Blunt responded to criticism from outside advocacy groups about the bill, and said they hope to have a final bill worked out and passed this summer so that the President can sign it into law. "I think the fact that we took a few months and looked at this will make for a stronger bill".

The differences between the House's and Senate's versions of the legislation include the language used in describing when a member would be required to pay for settlements and when they would not.

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

"This is an antiquated policy" that requires mandatory counseling and mediation for accusers and other steps, "and it's time for a change", Klobuchar said. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with other groups, sent a letter Wednesday warning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that the bill "falls short of an acceptable compromise, and may have unintended negative consequences". "Our focus here was not on trying to write a new set of laws just for the Congress of the United States".

The bipartisan legislation, which had more than 40 co-sponsors in the 100-seat Senate, would also make public the harassment settlements and the lawmakers involved, automatically refer such settlements to the Senate Ethics Committee and more closely track allegations of harassment within the U.S. Capitol.

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