Two South Florida Democrats in Congress teamed up on Wednesday to unveil a proposal which will shine the spotlight on sexual harassment incidents on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., brought out the “Me Too Congressional Ethics Act” which will make all congressional sexual harassment cases automatically go to the U.S. House Ethics Committee. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., is the bill’s only cosponsor.
The two congresswomen pointed to several high profile sexual harassment incidents in Congress which have come to light in recent weeks which have led to the resignations and coming resignations of the likes of U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. Earlier this month, news broke that taxpayers were on the hook for $220,000 which was paid to settle a sexual harassment case against U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.
Wasserman Schultz made the case for why her bill was needed.
“The current process for handling sexual harassment cases in Congress too often protects the perpetrators while leaving the victims exposed,” said Wasserman Schultz on Wednesday. “In sexual harassment cases where a settlement is reached or wrongdoing is found, the Ethics Committee should immediately initiate an investigation. As we’ve just seen with so many troubling legal settlements coming to light, that is simply not happening now. The congressional culture surrounding sexual harassment must change immediately – and it must be much more transparent and accountable. Victims of sexual harassment deserve to be heard. There should be consequences levied when the accusation is found to have merit, including and especially within the halls of Congress.”
“The ‘Me Too’ movement has arrived, exposing the toxic nature of sexual harassment,” Frankel, the chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, said. “Members of Congress who breach the trust of their office by violating civil rights law, including acts of sexual abuse, should be held accountable both to the victim and the institution. This legislation assures swiftness and fairness in responding to an ugly chapter in the history of Congress.”
The bill was sent to the House Administration and Rules Committees on Wednesday. So far, there is no counterpart in the Senate.
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