Heard on the Hill

Senate Resolution Would Mandate Training to Combat Sexual Harassment

Grassley and Feinstein among leaders of bipartisan effort

Sens. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are taking lead roles in the Senate’s efforts to update policies on sexual harassment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan group of senators is moving to require employees of the Senate to be trained on addressing and avoiding sexual harassment in the workplace.

The effort, led by Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, takes the form of a Senate resolution that would require everyone from interns to lawmakers to complete training through the Office of Compliance or the Office of the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment within 60 days of starting work in the chamber.

“I have tremendous respect for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I believe each of you works hard to ensure that your offices are professional, free of harassment, and places where merit’s rewarded. But I think we have to acknowledge that in our society, despite our best efforts and intentions, sexual harassment remains a serious problem,” Grassley said in a floor statement. “And we must work together to make sure that the Senate remains free from harassment.”

The Iowa Republican sponsored the 1995 law that set up the Office of Compliance.

The bipartisan list of supporters of Grassley’s resolution includes California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking member of the Rules and Administration Committee.

“Sexual harassment training should be mandatory in the United States Senate,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Senator Grassley and my Rules Committee colleagues to pass and implement this important update to Senate policy.”

Asked Tuesday about plans to act on a letter that Grassley sent to the Rules panel last week regarding anti-sexual harassment training, Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama referred Roll Call to West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who he said was already working with Klobuchar on the effort.

The resolution calls on the Rules and Administration Committee to promulgate rules, and for the Senate sergeant-at-arms to conduct a survey regarding the prevalence of sexual harassment each Congress.

Capito is among the supporters of the Grassley resolution, giving some reason to think the Rules panel might take action.

“Sexual harassment — under any circumstance and in any setting — is simply unacceptable. As members of Congress and staff serving the American people, we have a responsibly to set an example of what it means to foster an appropriate and respectful work environment,” Capito said in a statement.

 Other initial supporters of the resolution include Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey. 

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