New Bill Addresses Rampant Sexual Harassment on Capitol Hill

Last month, not long after allegations of sexual harassment and assault by several women against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore made national news, a group of lawmakers introduced a new bill to address the way in which sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill is handled. The new bill introduced by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) aims to completely reform the way in which sexual misconduct complaints are handled by providing victims more support and requiring mandatory sexual harassment training each year. Several Republican lawmakers have co-sponsored the House bill.

Representative Jackie Speier shared her own experience with sexual assault as a young congressional staffer. She referred to sexual misconduct in the halls of Congress as “rampant” and used the hash tag #MeTooCongress. Several other women in Congress came forward with similar experiences. Since then, a CNN report interviewed more than 50 people who have been victims of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.

Accusations against lawmakers made national news in November, leading to the resignation and retirement of two Congressmen and one Senator.

On November 16, Leeann Tweeden, a talk show host and reporter from KABC news, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against U.S. Senator Al Franken. In an article first posted on KABC’s website, Tweeden described her interactions with comedian Al Franken while on a USO Tour in 2006. Franken allegedly forcibly kissed Tweeden and groped while she was sleeping. A photo of the incident was included in the original article. After Tweeden came forward with her allegation, Franken issued an apology and called for the Senate Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the accusations.  In the following weeks, several women came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Senator Franken and many of his colleagues, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, called for Franken’s resignation. On December 7, Senator Franken announced his resignation.

On December 5, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) announced his retirement from office after mounting accusations of sexual harassment by former staffers were uncovered by Buzzfeed.com. According to Buzzfeed, Conyers propositioned a former staffer who later reached a settlement of more than $27,000 in 2015. Despite his sudden resignation, Conyers still denies all allegations of sexual harassment.

On December 8, Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), announced his resignation amidst a House Ethics Committee investigation over accusations that Franks had offered a female staffer $5 million to become a surrogate for him and his wife. Franks admitted that he discussed surrogacy with two of his former staffers due to infertility issues.

According to the Huffington Post, Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) has been asked to resign by other Members of Congress after it was revealed that Farenthold settled a sexual harassment claim for $84,000 using taxpayer money. Representatives Mia Love (R-Utah), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are among those calling for Farenthold to step down and repay the money used for the settlement.

Media Resources: CNN 11/15/17, 11/14/17, 11/14/17, 10/27/17; Huffington Post 12/6/17, 12/8/17; Washington Post 12/10/17, 12/7/17; The New York Times 12/16/17, 12/8/17; KABC 11/16/17; USA Today 12/5/17, 12/5/17, 12/1/17; Politico 12/8/17; Feminist Newswire 11/17/17

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