Washington, DC, USA: The US House of Representatives now requires all lawmakers, employees, and interns to go through saxual harassment training every year. after the House voted to require saxual harassment training for members and staff. Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, sponsored th House resolution to require saxual harassment training for all members and staff – which passed wenesday. The House’s vote comes as members grapple with how to respond to multiple allegations of harassment against Democratic Rep. John Conyers.
The vote took place after weeks of growing discussion within Congress to change how it deals with saxual harassment in an environment that has little oversight. It also comes at a time that the House is grappling with how to respond to multiple saxual harassment allegations made against Rep. John Conyers, a high-profile Democrat, as first reported by BuzzFeed News last week.
“Today’s bill is an important step in the right direction, but let’s not fool ourselves, it is a baby step. … We are in the midst of cultural revolution,” Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, who co-sponsored the resolution, said on the House floor just before the vote. “We are elected representatives of the American people and we must not hesitate to do what is needed to fix a broken system.”
Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, who co-sponsored the bill with Speier, also called the legislation a first step, adding that Congress needs to take action to “make it easier for women to come forward,” provide legal counsel for victims, prohibit “any kind of member-staff relationships” and end the use of taxpayer money to settle saxual harassment complaints.
“This is a bipartisan problem. … It is bipartisan legislation because bad behavior transcends party labels,” Comstock emphasized, calling this “a watershed moment.”
The resolution will require all members and employees to complete training within 90 days of each session or the date they were hired. For the current Congress, House members and its employees have 180 days after the start of the new session begins in January, 2018. Interns would also have to participate in the training.
The Senate has already passed a similar measure that will also require saxual harassment training for its members and employees annually. The Senate resolution, passed on Nov. 9, requires that all new hires and members go through the training within 60 days.
Other legislation has also been in the works to address saxual harassment, and it has growing bipartisan support. The ME TOO Congress (Member and Employee Training and Oversight On Congress) Act is intended to overhaul the current complaints system and make it more victim friendly. The legislation gained several cosponsors in the House immediately following BuzzFeed News’ report that Conyers made a secret settlement in 2015 regarding a wrongful dismissal complaint that alleged years of saxual harassment.
Conyers, who flew back to Michigan on Tuesday evening, was not present for the vote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called Wednesday’s vote an “important first step as we deal with this problem,” noting that the House Administration Committee plans to hold a hearing next week to look at the issue of secretive settlements to cover up saxual harassment allegations in Congress.
“We’re taking the issue of saxual harassment very seriously. We’re going to continue to do that. But we need to have a comprehensive review of all of these things, so that we can have a comprehensive response,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also called the bill a “first step,” and urged the House to pass the ME TOO Act as well, saying that Congress has a “moral duty to show real, effective leadership” on the issue of harassment.
Bipartisan support for mandatory harassment training grew in the weeks leading up to the Conyers reports, after several female members of Congress shared their stories of past harassment by staff and members.
Both Speier and Comstock shared stories they have heard from staff of past assaults and harassment on the House floor Wednesday. Speier said a woman recently told her that a member of Congress once assaulted her on the House floor late at night. “A member came up behind her, grinded himself up against her and then put his tongue in her ear,” Speier said, but did not name the member of Congress or say whether he is still serving in the House.
The House Administration Committee held a hearing midway through November about preventing saxual harassment in the congressional workplace, where members were supportive of implementing saxual harassment training.
Reps. Gregg Harper and Robert Brady, the chairman and leading Democrat on the House Administration Committee, respectively, also sponsored the resolution requiring saxual harassment training.
EARLIER : US House To Require SaxualHarassment Sensitivity Training For Lawmakers – Following a bill Rep. Jackie Speier, introduced on Tuesday, to make training for lawmakers mandatory, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that the House will adopt a policy to require anti-saxual harassment training for all members and staff amid calls to combat the behavior on Capitol Hill. Ryan made the announcement hours after the House Administration Committee held a hearing to discuss the House’s saxual harassment policies and resources available for staff to report complaints.
“Going forward, the House will adopt a policy of mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all Members and staff. Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,” Ryan said in a statement.
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Jackie Speier, who introduced a bill to make training mandatory, said two sitting lawmakers — one Republican and one Democrat — engaged in saxually inappropriate behavior. Rep. Barbara Comstock said a trusted source told her a lawmaker exposed himself to a staffer.
At the Tuesday hearing, two female lawmakers said that current male members of Congress have been accused of saxual harassment. Neither would name the alleged harassers.
A Republican congresswoman says she was recently told by a trusted source that a member of Congress exposed himself to a staffer.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said Tuesday at a House hearing on preventing saxual harassment on Capitol Hill that she was told about a staffer who quit her job after a lawmaker asked her to bring work material to his house, then exposed himself.
Stories of saxual harassment and gender hostility are continuing to come to light in various industries, including entertainment and politics.
Comstock did not name the member nor the staffer.