A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would overhaul the process for reporting claims of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill after a wave of allegations and lawmaker resignations over the last few weeks.
The group of 20 senators — 12 Democrats and eight Republicans — are backing the Congressional Harassment Reform Act, which they argue would bring "transparency and accountability" to the process of reporting harassment. The bill would extend protections to interns and congressional fellows, and end the secrecy requirement to allow victims to speak publicly about their allegations.
The legislation also requires members of Congress to be responsible for the cost of any settlement and for the Senate or House Ethics Committee to approve any settlement. All settlements would be publicly disclosed under the bill.
Among those supporting the legislation are Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., one of the more prominent senators in the fight for these reforms, especially after her back-and-forth with President Trump on Twitter, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 ranking Senate Republican.
“Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules,” Gillibrand said in a statement. "There are real costs to sexual harassment in the workplace ... We must ensure that Congress handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers."
In just over a week, three lawmakers have announced their resignation or planned resignation from Congress — former Sen. Al Franken, former Reps. John Conyers and Trent Franks.
Two others, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, announced that they will retire from Congress at the end of their terms.