Sexual harassment in Congress is a scandal—and it would probably be a lot more of one if Congress hadn’t written its own rules for dealing with allegations in secret. But since the #MeToo movement has shined a light on sexual harassment, the House of Representatives has managed to pass a decent bill. The Senate … hasn’t, and the bill it has coming up for a vote is not the answer. The American Civil Liberties Union, Equal Pay Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Women’s Law Center, and Public Citizen are calling on the Senate to strengthen its bill.
Their letter points to serious weaknesses in the Senate bill, including that it doesn’t call for an independent investigator, instead putting approval of settlements in the hands of the ethics committees of both the House and the Senate to sign off on if the settlement is because of a member of Congress’s own actions:
“This provision appears to provide an opportunity for a Member who has settled a claim to avoid personal accountability and to be absolved from reimbursing the taxpayers,” the groups wrote in the letter.
Additionally, the Senate bill fails to hold members liable for discrimination settlements:
“A Member who has committed wrongdoing should be liable for all damages negotiated in a settlement or awarded by a court; they should not be shielded from the consequences of their actions,” they wrote.
Seriously. Time for Congress to be held accountable—and the way for that to happen is for Congress to write its own rules to demand accountability.