Senate passes sexual harassment bill after months of dispute, and taxpayers will no longer foot the bill to settle harassment claims against members of Congress

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesSen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
  • The Senate passed a sexual harassment reform bill on Thursday by unanimous consent.
  • The legislation streamlines the harassment claims process and stops settlements from being paid for by taxpayer dollars.

The Senate passed a bill to address sexual harassment accusations on Capitol Hill Thursday, moving forward on legislation that had been stalled for much of the year.

Through unanimous consent, the Senate moved forward on updating the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act to streamline sexual harassment and abuse claims.

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Sens. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, and Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, spearheaded the bill, which House and Senate leaders reached an agreement on earlier in the week.

Blunt said in a statement the bill “sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated by the Congress.”

“The reforms in this agreement will, most importantly, strengthen protections for victims and hold Members of Congress personally accountable for their misconduct,” he added.

The bill’s passage ends a long battle over key details, including who would be financially liable for settlements. Under current law, there are waiting periods and required mediation between accused individuals and victims. In addition, the new bill would ensure that taxpayers would not foot the bill for settlements that result from harassment claims.

The past two years on Capitol Hill have mirrored other areas of society, seeing several lawmakers resign or forgo re-election over their roles in sexual harassment against employees.

Reporting revealed multiple instances in which elected officials used taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims. Reps. Blake Farenthold, Pat Meehan, John Conyers, and others resigned as a result.

“The Senate and the House have reached a landmark agreement to reform the process by which Capitol Hill handles claims of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. It is a bicameral and bipartisan agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “It strengthens protections for victims. It ensures that it is members of Congress who will be held responsible for their own misconduct – not taxpayers.”

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