Texas Senators Back Bill to Overhaul Sexual Harassment Reporting Process in Congress

WASHINGTON — Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are backing a bipartisan bill to curb sexual harassment in Congress, after a handful of lawmakers have either resigned or announced they won't seek re-election in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.Lawmakers say the Congressional Harassment Reform Act would bring transparency to Congress' complicated workplace misconduct policy and allow those reporting sexual harassment to decide whether or not the claim should be public.The bill is the work of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a prominent Democrat who has made sexual assault legislation the focus of her tenure. She released a similar bill last month, but with Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, and seven other GOP senators on board, this version could pick up steam.“Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules,” Gillibrand said in a prepared statement. “We must ensure that Congress handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers.”Gillibrand said the bill will improve the tracking of complaints through an online system and create a biennial climate survey of Congress. In addition, members and staff would have to undergo training, and those who report harassment would no longer be required to attend counseling and mediation. Also, for the first time, interns and fellows on Capitol Hill would receive the same resources as full-time employees.Cruz and Gillibrand, who has called on President Donald Trump to resign over allegations of sexual assault, filed the legislation the same day a Republican in the Texas delegation announced that he would not run for re-election in light of sexual misconduct allegations.“In recent months, we've seen wave after wave of appalling sexual harassment and assault allegations — from Hollywood, to newsrooms, to the halls of Congress. And powerful men who have abused their positions have been held to account,” Cruz said in a prepared statement.The Senateand House voted to mandate sexual harassment prevention training last month. Previously, both chambers offered optional training for members and staff through the Office of Compliance. The bill also changes Congress' settlement process, which has been under scrutiny since it was revealed that Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold used taxpayer dollars in his $84,000 settlement to Lauren Greene, a former communications director who sued him in 2014 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.  Continue reading...

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