Congress To Vote On Paying Out Harassment Claims Themselves

Congress To Vote On Paying Out Harassment Claims Themselves

Congress To Vote On Paying Out Harassment Claims Themselves

In a far, far overdue moment of bipartisanship, good optics, and common sense, Congress is finally coming to grips with the fact that MAYBE it isn’t a good idea to use taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims.

I know, I’m shocked too. Congress, who generally treats taxpayer money like a never-ending piggy bank, has finally reached a compromise bill in which – brace yourselves – they’ve decided that anyone who needs to settle a harassment claim must PAY FOR IT THEMSELVES.

Personal responsibility??? Who’da thunk it???

Currently taxpayers cover the cost of settling harassment claims made against elected officials. The new policy, a bipartisan response in the #MeToo era after nearly seven months of negotiations between the House and Senate, could get a Senate vote by the end of the week, said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Blunt said he had spoken with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ryan told him that he would bring the bill up for a House vote after the Senate passed it.

The House had wanted lawmakers to also be liable for discrimination claims made against them. Some House members said Wednesday that they hoped to address that issue next year along with others, including a proposal to provide legal assistance to accusers as well as the accused.

“We believe this is a strong step toward creating a new standard in Congress that will set a positive example in our nation, but there is still more work to be done,” key House members said in a statement.

Blunt said limiting members’ liability to cases of harassment, and excluding discrimination complaints, is more practical.

“It really was always about harassment and individual activity, and discrimination is much broader and much harder. Certainly people are still protected if they are discriminated against. They are protected like they would be working for any other employer,” Blunt said.

California Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) said the proposed policy still would hold members accountable for their behavior. That was a major driver of the bill after nine lawmakers — eight House members and one senator — resigned since last fall when sexual harassment allegations against them became public.

“Now that we have a bill that will become law, there is going to be accountability by members,” Speier said. “It’s 80% the House version.”

This has been a bipartisan problem, and there should be bipartisan agreement to not write fat settlement checks on the taxpayer’s dime. Note to Congress: THIS ISN’T YOUR MONEY.

Since 2003, taxpayers have shelled out nearly $300,000 to settle 13 sexual harassment or sex discrimination claims made against a representative, according to the House Administration Committee and House Office of Compliance.

“From the members’ point of view, it just creates one more potential liability that you really have less control over how it’s dealt with,” Blunt said. “But you certainly have control over whether you create the situation that creates a need to deal with it or not.”

The compromise bill puts the House and Senate ethics committees in charge of reviewing the settlements, he said, and an annual report will publicize any settlements or awards made against members of Congress, he said.

Senator Blunt is correct. Congress needs to control its own behavior, and there won’t BE these problems to begin with. But if a Representative or Senator ends up being an entitled sleazeball while working, at the absolute minimum the taxpayer should not be on the hook to pay off those they have harassed. Get this law voted on and signed.

Featured image: Capitol Building, Washington D.C. (image via Pixabay)

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  • scott says:

    I’d suggest that this bill only apply to incidents during a single term in office. Any incidents happening in any successive terms should be paid for by the taxpayers IN THAT PERSONS DISTRICT!!! If people want to keep reelecting these shitbags, they should bear the direct costs of it…

  • Dietrich says:

    (The list of taxpayer-funded settlements.)

  • GWB says:

    This is a perfect example of the Tragedy Of The Commons. If no one is actually accountable for their behavior, then their behavior will be … less than stellar. Make individuals responsible for the consequences of their behavior and it will change their behavior.

    It also gives falsely accused members a good reason to fight tooth and nail for the truth – if the commons is required to pay settlements, then there is incentive to just make the payment and make the accusation go away. With direct responsibility, innocence actually matters.
    (I wonder how many of those settlements would have been fought because they were at least partly bogus?)

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