Brooklyn pol says Congress overdue for sexual harassment reckoning
With the news of the shocking firing of “Today” anchor Matt Lauer still sinking in across the country and with the ongoing scandal involving sexual harassment allegations against longtime U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) surrounding Washington D.C., House members are moving ahead with legislation to combat sexual predators in congress.
And it’s about time, according to U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Bensonhurst-Upper West Side).
Nadler and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-C-Long Island) are working across the aisle to pass the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act of 2017 to put strict procedures in place to help protect victims of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.
Nadler and King are co-sponsors of the landmark legislation, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).
“For too long, men and women working in Congress have lived with an inadequate, non-transparent and unfair system for handling claims of sexual harassment within this distinguished body,” Nadler and King said in a joint statement. “Rather than taking the lead, Congress has turned a blind eye to these claims, maintaining a system for complaints and oversight that placed too heavy a burden on accusers. We are overdue for change in order to make sure that every woman or man who enters Congress, either as a member or a staffer, can work in a safe, transparent and fair environment.”
The ME TOO Congress Act seeks to make substantial changes in the way sexual harassment complaints by congressional staff members are filed and adjudicated on Capitol Hill.
The bill is named after the #MeToo campaign on Twitter and other social networking sites being waged by women to bring sexual harassment into the light.
Among the bill’s provisions:
The requirement for victims to undergo counseling and mediation sessions 30 days before filing a formal complaint would be waived.
Victims would have the option of consulting an in-house counsel to represent them in the complaint process.
The requirement that complainants sign nondisclosure agreements as a condition for filing a complaint would be eliminated.
Victims would be able to file complaints online.
Lawmakers would have to pay sexual harassment settlements out of their own pockets.
Meanwhile, Conyers has come under increasing fire from his own House colleagues in the wake of mounting sexual harassment allegations against him. At least four women who formerly worked for the veteran lawmaker have come forward and have charged that they were sexually harassed by him, according to the Washington Post.
Earlier this week, Conyers resigned from his high-profile position as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. But he is refusing to resign from his seat in Congress.
Conyers, 88, was first elected to the House in 1965. He is currently the longest-serving member in that legislative body.
Another high-profile lawmaker, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), has been accused by four women of groping them. Franken, 66, has publicly apologized.
As House members worked toward passage of the Me Too Act, the country was grappling with more sexual harassment news, this time involving Lauer.
On Wednesday morning, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack announced that the popular and longtime host of “Today” had been fired for “inappropriate sexual behavior.”
Savannah Guthrie, Lauer’s “Today” co-host, appeared shocked and saddened as she ready Lack’s announcement on the air at the start of the show on Wednesday.
Lauer, 59, joined “Today” in 1994 and was named the show’s co-host three years later, working alongside Katie Couric for many years.
Lauer is the second morning television superstar to be fired in recent days. Last week, CBS News fired Charlie Rose over sexual harassment allegations first documented in a Washington Post article.
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