Women in the Senate are ramping up the pressure on chamber leadership to pass legislation to address the issue of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional offices.
All 22 female Republican and Democratic senators sent a letter Wednesday urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to bring House-passed legislation on the issue to the floor for a vote.
“The Senate’s inaction stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives that led to the passage of bipartisan CAA reform legislation in February,” the senators wrote. “Inaction is unacceptable when a survey shows that four out of 10 women congressional staffers believe that sexual harassment is a problem on Capitol Hill and one out of six women in the same survey responded that they have been the survivors of sexual harassment.”
Schumer replied in agreement with the senators’ letter, saying, “We strongly agree that the Senate should quickly take up legislation to combat sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.”
Spokesman David Popp said McConnell “supports members being personally, financially liable for sexual misconduct in which they have engaged.”
“There is a bipartisan group that is continuing to work on legislation,” Popp said. “I don’t yet have a prediction on when that will be completed.”
The chamber last year passed a measure that required senators and staff to attend anti-harassment and discrimination training once a Congress. The senators argue that more needs to be done to address the decades-old statute — referred to as the Congressional Accountability Act — that limits the ability of victims to pursue immediate legal action.
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“It continues to require survivors to endure an antiquated dispute resolution process, including a month-long counseling session, forced mediation and a 30-day ‘cooling off’ period before a victim can make a decision whether to pursue justice in a courtroom or continue with administrative procedures,” the lawmakers wrote.
The senators said the chamber should give victims the same resources available to House staffers, like free legal representation.
“Survivors who have bravely come forward to share their stories have brought to light just how widespread harassment and discrimination continue to be throughout Capitol Hill,” they wrote. “No longer can we allow the perpetrators of these crimes to hide behind a 23-year-old law. It’s time to rewrite the Congressional Accountability Act and update the process through which survivors seek justice.”