WASHINGTON (AP) – Rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct, the House is moving ahead on legislation to require anti-sexual harassment training for all members and their staffs.
The vote comes amid a wave of accusations against lawmakers that has thrust the issue of gender hostility and discrimination on Capitol Hill squarely into the spotlight, and prompted calls for the embattled lawmakers to step down.
The measure would require lawmakers, their staffs and interns “to complete a program of training in workplace rights and responsibilities each session of each Congress” that includes anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training.
The Senate unanimously adopted a similar measure earlier this month. That vote came as titans of media, entertainment and sports faced swift punishment after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.
Since then, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the longest serving member of the House, is under fire after a news website published a report detailing a settlement with a staffer who said Conyers sexually harassed her, then fired her after she rebuffed his advances. A second former staffer has come forward with more claims of inappropriate behavior.
Conyers earlier this week announced that he’s stepping down from his leadership position on the House Judiciary Committee. Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state have called on Conyers to resign. The Ethics Committee has opened an investigation.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, recently apologized after a nude photo of him was leaked on social media.
Two weeks ago, a woman came forward to accuse Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of forcibly kissing her during a USO tour in the Middle East in 2006, before he was elected to public office. Leeann Tweeden also released a photograph in which Franken appears to be groping her breasts while she sleeps. Two other women have since accused Franken of fondling their buttocks while posing for photographs.
Franken has apologized and said he welcomes a Senate Ethics investigation.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., one of the resolution’s sponsors, earlier this month told a story at a House hearing about a staffer who left Capitol Hill after a current member of Congress exposed himself to her. Comstock said she does not know the identity of the lawmaker.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., another co-sponsor, revealed at the same hearing that two current members, one Democrat and one Republican, have also engaged in sexual harassment. Speier declined to name the members, citing non-disclosure agreements as well as the wishes of the victims not to identify their harassers.
Next week, that committee will hold another hearing to review the Congressional Accountability Act, and propose reforms to the way in which harassment complaints are filed and handled on Capitol Hill.
The vote comes as Alabama GOP candidate Roy Moore faces allegations of preying on teenage girls decades ago. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have called on Moore to step aside, saying they believe the women. President Donald Trump has all but endorsed Moore, who denies the allegations.