An overhaul of Capitol Hill’s workplace misconduct system is in jeopardy and likely won’t be attached to a government spending bill this week, diminishing the likelihood of reform before the midterm elections, according to Politico.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who introduced the bipartisan Congressional Harassment Reform Act last December, said on Monday that House and Senate leadership “stripped” provisions from the language from the spending bill at the eleventh hour.
“I am appalled that House and Senate leadership removed provisions from the omnibus bill at the last minute that would have finally brought accountability and transparency to Congress’s sexual harassment reporting process,” said Gillibrand in a statement released Monday.
Among its provisions, the act requires that members of Congress personally pay for sexual harassment settlements when they are found liable. Currently, lawmakers can tap taxpayer funds to settle with victims. Also, unless the victim opts for privacy, under the act, settlements would automatically be made public, thus lifting the veil of secrecy around the process.
The provisions, noted Gillibrand, passed unanimously in the House, and the act has broad support in the Senate.
“It begs the question: Who are they trying to protect? I can’t think of any legitimate reason to remove this language other than to protect members of Congress over taxpayers and congressional employees,” said Gillibrand, who on Monday called on the Senate leadership to bring the legislation to the floor for an immediate vote.
Congress is facing a Friday midnight deadline to approve its spending bill. And on Monday, Politico cited sources who reported that the harassment measure was unlikely to get attached to the spending bill, a shift that “jeopardizes” the chances that the bill would move forward and onto President Trump’s desk for a signature.