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Senators Unveil Bipartisan Sexual Harassment Bill


Leaders of the Senate Rules Committee have released bipartisan legislation intended to reform the process to pursue claims of sexual harassment or other workplace discrimination experienced on Capitol Hill.

A statement from Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., claimed the bill would reform the dispute resolution process, protect workers, increase transparency and hold members of Congress accountable.

The bill includes a provision requiring members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment they personally commit.

Data released by the Rules Committee last year showed at least $600,000 in taxpayer money was spent over the past 20 years to settle workplace misconduct claims in the Senate.

The legislation would also eliminate the required 30-day "counseling" period, 30-day mediation phase, and 30-day "cooling off" period, allowing a victim to immediately pursue an administrative hearing or file a civil action.

"This bipartisan agreement sends a clear message that harassment in any form will not be tolerated in the U.S. Congress," Blunt said.

"The major reforms in this agreement will, first and foremost, strengthen protections for harassment victims," he added. "The agreement will also enhance accountability and prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for a Member's misconduct."

The House passed a similar bill in February, although the Senate version contains some notable differences, including language more specifically defining when a member of Congress would be required to pay for settlements.

In a rare joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expressed optimism the bill will pass in "short order."

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