The House will vote next week on a resolution requiring all lawmakers and staff to complete anti-harassment training, a new mandate following a flood of sexual harassment accusations rocking Capitol Hill.
Speaker Paul Ryan announced last week that the lower chamber would alter the rules to force offices to complete the training, which was previously optional and rarely required by Hill offices. The vote, expected as soon as Monday, follows through on that promise just days after the Senate enacted a similar requirement.
“Since becoming Chairman in January, I have made it a priority to improve the overall professionalism of the House of Representatives,” said House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), one of the resolution’s co-sponsors, on Friday. “Instituting mandatory training is a first step in ensuring we are creating a safe and productive environment for everyone in the House.”
The resolution is a major victory for California Democrat Jackie Speier, a longtime anti-sexual harassment advocate who has tried to get Congress to adopt this very measure for years. But while lawmakers previously ignored Speier, the nation’s current focus on harassment matters has given her effort enough momentum to push it over the finish line.
It’s unlikely, however, to relieve the pressure on GOP leaders to do more to address the shroud of secrecy surrounding harassment in Congress. Legislative aides have few options for recourse against fellow staffers or lawmakers who mistreat them, a problem uncovered in recent news reports, including in POLITICO. And there’s a fear of retribution that has kept many victims from coming forward.
Indeed, House Administration Committee ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) said Friday in his statement on the vote that “there is more work to do.”
Speier, for example, is also pushing for reforms to the Office of Compliance, which handles workplace disputes for Congress. That office has been heavily criticized for its byzantine structure that often inhibits or discourages victims from pursuing their perpetrators, but lawmakers technically control what the office can and cannot do.
Leadership will also be under increased pressure in the coming days to release the names of lawmakers who have secretly settled sexual harassment cases on the taxpayer dime. Those names are currently shielded from public view, a matter of contention between lawmakers.
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