A House Republican introduced legislation Wednesday that would make public all legislative branch settlement payments made in the past two decades and would force lawmakers and staff to repay harassment claims settled on their behalf.
The bill, authored by Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., would also prohibit future use of federal funds to pay harassment claims, which is now the practice.
"This bill is dealing with transparency, so the American people know where their money is being spent, and so we don't incentive Congress and their staff to behave badly," DeSantis said.
The legislation has bipartisan co-sponsors and was unveiled as the House approved a resolution mandating sexual harassment training for all lawmakers and staff.
Lawmakers in both parties are grappling with a string of sexual misconduct revelations and have promised to act swiftly to deal with the problem.
Last week, lawmakers revealed the federal Office of Compliance has paid $17 million in claims over two decades to employees of the Legislative Branch, including payments for sexual harassment involving Congressional offices.
DeSantis criticized the secrecy of the payments, which left even lawmakers in the dark.
"It’s just there and they dip into it when they see fit," DeSantis said. "The taxpayer is being left out of it and we are correcting that."
DeSantis said his bill would not publicize the names of victims and repayment would be limited to lawmakers and staff found responsible for misconduct.
DeSantis said he has not discussed his legislation with GOP leaders and does not know whether they will bring it to the floor.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pledged a "comprehensive" examination of harassment problems, beginning with a Dec. 7 hearing in the House Administration Committee. The panel will scrutinize the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which instituted a prohibition of discrimination and harassment in the legislative branch.