Updated 1:33 p.m. | House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Speaker Paul D. Ryan in separate remarks Thursday called for Michigan Democrat John Conyers Jr., the longest-serving member, to resign amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well,” Pelosi said. “However, Congressman Conyers should resign.”
Asked if she’s relayed that message to Conyers, Pelosi said, “I’m saying it to you right now.”
Pelosi called the allegations that have been raised against Conyers “serious, disappointing and very credible.”
“It’s very sad,” the California Democrat said. “The brave woman who came forward are owed justice.”
Pelosi, who appeared to be reading from a prepared statement in response to a reporter’s question about Conyers, struck a balance between being respectful of his 52 years serving in Congress and the serious nature of allegations.
The minority leader has been criticized by members of her own party for her remarks Sunday on Meet the Press calling Conyers, 88, an “an icon in our country” who “has done a great deal to protect women.” She also called for “due process” and said Conyers would “do the right thing” as he reviews his case.
Pelosi was more direct on Thursday in communicating her feelings.
“As dean [of the House], Congressman Conyers has served our Congress for more than five decades and shaped some of the most consequential legislation of the last half century,” she said. “However, zero tolerance means consequences for everyone. No matter how great the legacy, it’s no license to harass or discriminate. In fact it makes it even more disappointing.”
Following Pelosi, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan also said Conyers should resign after he was briefed on the “torrent of allegations.”
Watch: ‘Conyers Should Resign’ Says Pelosi
“I think he should resign immediately,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
Ryan specifically addressed the claims former Conyers staffer Marion Brown made Thursday on the Today Show that Conyers frequently propositioned her for sex and inappropriately touched her. “He just violated my body,” Brown said.
“No one should have to go through something like that, let alone here in Congress,” he said.
The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Conyers, who has denied the allegations, and is using an expedited process to conduct its review. If Conyers were to resign the investigation would cease.
Conyers on Sunday announced that he would temporarily step aside from his position as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee while the Ethics investigation is underway. He was in Washington briefly Tuesday and met with the Congressional Black Caucus for what the group’s chairman, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., called a “very candid” conversation.
Richmond said he did not ask Conyers to resign and that decision would be up to him.
After the CBC meeting, Conyers on Tuesday flew back to Detroit and according to Detroit media outlets he is currently in the hospital for a “stress-related” illness. In other Detroit media reports Wednesday, Conyers’ lawyer said he would not resign but sources close to him said he would not run for re-election in 2018.
Most Democrats have stopped short of calling for Conyers to resign, but may feel more freedom to do so now that Pelosi has done so.
Watch: Democratic Leaders Decline to Call for Conyers to Resign
In addition to calling on Conyers to resign, Pelosi and Ryan on Thursday talked about next steps for overhauling procedures for reviewing sexual harassment cases in Congress after the House on Wednesdaypassed a resolution to mandate annual sexual harassment training for members and staff.
The House party leaders called that resolution an important first step but said there is more that needs to be done.
Ryan said the House Administration Committee is continuing its review of existing procedures and what can be done to improve them with a hearing next Thursday focused on the reporting and settlement process.
“No woman should have to endure harassment in any form, in any institution, let alone here in Congress,” the speaker said.
Pelosi said the next step should be the House passing the Me Too Congress Act introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier that would overhaul the adjudication process for sexual harassment complaints.
“That’s being discussed now, maybe some additions will be made,” Pelosi said.
One matter that appears to be under study is whether Congress has the authority to retroactively unseal settlements in sexual harassment cases that have not been public because of mandatory non-disclosure agreements.
When asked whether she’d support that, Pelosi said lawmakers will be hearing from legal experts on the matter.
“We’re going to do as much as we possibly can for transparency, to your question, and also for how victims are compensated,” she said.
The first Conyers allegation was exposed through documents leaked to BuzzFeed News relating to a 2015 wrongful dismissal complaint in which a female employee, now revealed to be Brown, claimed Conyers fired her for rejecting his sexual advances. The employee was paid roughly $27,000 in wages as a settlement, which required a non-disclosure agreement.
While BuzzFeed did not name the employee given the non-disclosure agreement, Brown decided to come forward and reveal herself in the today interview Thursday.
“I am taking a risk, and the reason I’m taking the risk, I want to be a voice,” she said. “I want (my granddaughter) to not have to endure sexism and gender inequality. I felt it was worth the risk to stand up for all the women in the workforce that are voiceless.”