Senators reach tentative deal on sexual harassment bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate leaders said Tuesday that they have reached tentative agreement on bipartisan sexual harassment legislation that would hold members of Congress personally liable for harassment claims.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he expected to introduce the bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., later Tuesday. Voting is possible by the week’s end.
Under the emerging deal, lawmakers “will have personal liability” for harassment claims against them, Blunt said. It would also eliminate mandatory “cooling off” periods that victims are required to wait before a complaint can be filed.
The Senate has been under pressure to act amid a national reckoning over sexual misconduct. The House passed legislation earlier this year requiring lawmakers — including members who have left office — to reimburse the Treasury for settlements made with taxpayer funds. More than $300,000 in taxpayer funds has been paid over the past 15 years to settle sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination claims.
“We are very close to getting this done,” Klobuchar said of the bill. “We are reforming that entire system and also calling for more accountability of members.”
The anti-harassment bill passed by the House in February eliminated mandatory counseling and mediation, and requires that a list of member offices that have reached sexual harassment settlements be published twice a year.
Late last year Congress found itself at the center of the growing #MeToo movement. Over a period of mere months, more than a half-dozen lawmakers resigned amid allegations that they engaged in sexual misconduct. Among them was one senator, Al Franken of Minnesota, who faced allegations from several women that he groped them while posing for photos. A radio host also accused Franken of forcibly kissing her during a USO tour in the Middle East in 2006, and circulated a photo in which Franken can be seen pretending to grope her breasts. He stepped down in January.