Earlier this yr, it appeared as if Congress was really going to do one thing to make it tougher for lawmakers to make use of their energy for intercourse and to stop an surroundings the place their high aides do the identical. The Home of Representatives voted in February to vary decades-old procedures for a way staffers report sexual harassment and assault accusations, with the purpose of constructing it simpler for a staffer to carry an accusation in opposition to a lawmaker.
“It’s a exceptional flip of occasions for a Congress that, up till just a few months in the past, had by no means required its members to undergo sexual harassment coaching. Ever,” I wrote then.
However that was February, shortly after eight lawmakers in Congress misplaced their jobs or introduced they wouldn’t run for re-election amid sexual misconduct allegations. Almost two months later, Congress hasn’t moved a millimeter to replace its sexual harassment insurance policies.
For many of these adjustments to enter impact, the Senate has to additionally move the invoice. The Senate didn’t take it up proper after the Home despatched it over, however advocates have been hopeful it might slide right into a must-pass spending invoice lawmakers handed earlier this month. It didn’t. And now it’s a really actual chance that Congress could not move any type of laws to vary its tradition of sexual harassment anytime quickly.
That’s despite lawmakers saying sexual misconduct is rampant on Capitol Hill. That’s despite each single feminine senator demanding this week that Senate leaders permit votes on laws to enhance the system.
That’s additionally despite horrifying information of misconduct nonetheless popping out of Capitol Hill. The Connecticut Publish and The Washington Publish’s Elise Viebeck reported this week congresswoman let her chief of workers keep on the job for 3 months after she realized he allegedly threatened to kill somebody who had labored within the workplace. Viebeck wrote:
“The menace from Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s chief of workers arrived in a voice mail.
“‘You higher (expletive) reply to me or I’ll (expletive) kill you,’ Tony Baker stated within the Could 5, 2016, recording left for Anna Kain, a former Esty aide Baker had as soon as dated.”
And as Etsy herself acknowledged to Viebeck, the foundations aren’t set as much as deal with her chief of workers’s alleged misconduct — or her dealing with of it. Whereas the aide isn’t accused of sexual misconduct, his alleged actions fall below the overall umbrella, given he’s accused of threatening, yelling and even punching somebody he dated within the workplace.
The congresswoman stated she felt pressured to signal a non-disclosure settlement, which saved him on longer. And he or she stated the system simply doesn’t work to rapidly defend staffers in hurt’s means, even when she wished to.
“Clearly that’s what it’s all set as much as do — to guard the member of Congress whose dangerous habits brought about the issue,” Esty instructed Viebeck.
OK, so even a congresswoman within the headlines for doing one thing mistaken with regard to misconduct within the office is acknowledging the foundations want to vary.
Precisely why Congress appears to have stalled on formally making these adjustments is difficult to pin down. Congress is kind of accomplished with passing main laws for the remainder of this yr. That doesn’t imply it may well’t move this guidelines change, which solely impacts lawmakers and those that work for them. However Congress additionally is concentrated on re-election in November, so any laws that doesn’t have already got momentum most likely gained’t out of the blue get consideration.
Some lawmakers have gone as far as to accuse Senate leaders of making an attempt to guard their colleagues. When advocates noticed their final, greatest likelihood for this guidelines change to turn into legislation fade away with the spending invoice, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., provided this: “I can’t consider any reputable purpose to take away this language aside from to guard members of Congress over taxpayers and congressional staff.”
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the senator who has the ability to carry payments up for a vote, didn’t instantly reply.
It appears like altering the sexual harassment guidelines simply wasn’t a precedence for lawmakers this spring. And because the momentum from final yr’s #MeToo motion fades from the general public eye, it’s potential this gained’t be a precedence this summer time or fall, both. The query for advocates stays the identical as when this entire motion began: When, if ever, will Congress transfer to guide on making office tradition safer for girls?