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Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 8:21 AM
With no opposition, the U.S. House on Tuesday approved new policies on how sexual harassment cases involving members of Congress are dealt with, also approving a change in the rules of the House, to now strictly prohibit relationships between a lawmaker and staffers under their supervision.
"People can't hide behind the process anymore," said Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), as the House moved to change a system that kept sexual harassment details quiet, and had taxpayers pay for any lawsuit damages.
"The members names will be known, and taxpayers will not be on the hook for any of this," Comstock said on the House floor.
"It holds members personally financially responsible, ending the charade of having taxpayers foot the bill for abuses," said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).
The new House rule doesn't leave much in the way of wiggle room, as it specifically says that lawmakers "may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner."
"From Members to staff, no one should feel unsafe serving in Congress," said House Speaker Paul Ryan. "My hope is that this legislation will help make hostile workplaces in Congress a relic of the past."
"We in Congress must lead, not only by strong legislation, but by example," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
"We also need a full accounting of any payments that are being made with tax dollars - this bill does that," said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
The changes on Capitol Hill occurred after the 'MeToo' movement began to bubble around the country in recent months, bringing forward questions about how Congress handled such matters, as it was discovered that taxpayers had paid legal bills for the wrongdoing of a small number of lawmakers.
Questions about sexual harassment also forced several members to decide against a re-election bid in 2018 as well.