Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., on Tuesday recommended that Congress should impose a formal ban on any sexual activity between lawmakers and staff.
"It is my opinion that given the inherent power differential between a member and their staff that they supervise, we should include a strict prohibition on members engaging in a sexual relationship with staff under their direct supervision," Byrne said during a hearing on sexual harassment prevention at the Committee on House Administration.
Byrne, who spent time in the private and public sectors prior to joining Congress, said lawmakers must also reform policies to ensure members are disciplined when they harass or assault a fellow lawmaker.
"I believe we should adopt a specific policy for this kind of behavior in our Code of Official Conduct," Byrne testified. "That would send a signal that member-on-member sexual harassment will not be tolerated and that members of this body support those being harassed in reporting these incidents to the Ethics Committee."
Byrne called for members who are found liable or settle a claim from an accuser to reimburse the Treasury Department for any settlement the victim is paid. He said it's "unacceptable" that settlements are paid by the taxpayer.
"It is my belief that the member should be personally liable or required to repay the Treasury for such damages," he said. "Furthermore, any payment out of the Treasury in response to a claim of discrimination or harassment by a House office should be made in a manner that is fully transparent."
Byrne said he supports a call from Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., to require enhanced, mandatory sexual harassment training for all congressional employees, including interns, fellows, and pages.