The House on Wednesday passed a resolution that would require training lawmakers and staffers once a year on sexual harassment, after a spate of stories about the predatory sexual culture on Capitol Hill.
The resolution, authored by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), would require members and staff to undergo “anti-harassment and anti-discrimination” training during each session of Congress, according to The Hill. Interns and fellows would also be trained.
The culture of Capitol Hill was exposed after women stepped forward with their stories about Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), as well as stories of an informal “creep list” on Capitol Hill, warning women to avoid riding elevators alone with certain lawmakers.
A hearing earlier this month revealed that Congress has paid more than $17 million in taxpayer funds to quietly settle sexual harassment and other workplace violation cases since the late 1990s.
After the resolution’s passage, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) called it a “baby step.”
“Today’s bill is an important step in the right direction. But let’s not fool ourselves,” she said. She revealed at the hearing that she had also been forcibly kissed by another staffer when she worked on the Hill decades ago.
She and other lawmakers are calling for much bigger steps, including revealing which lawmakers settled cases using taxpayer funds, having them reimburse taxpayers, and prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to settle such cases.
Comstock talked about the culture of sexual harassment when she was a staffer in the 1990s.
She said he remembers former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Texas) bragging about hiring attractive women.
“There were members like good-time Charlie Wilson, who was, you know, hardy-har-har, openly bragged about hiring staff based on their looks and breast size,” she said.
Speier said a woman had confided to her that a male lawmaker came up behind her, grinded his body against hers, and stuck his tongue in her ear during a late-night House floor debate, according to The Hill.
“That happened on this floor with members — probably — standing around,” she said.
Both Franken and Conyers have expressed contrition, but are refusing to step down. Franken has also cast doubt on his accusers’ recollections, while saying it was important to listen to their stories.
On Thursday, an Army soldier stepped forward with her story that Franken had cupped her breast during a USO tour on 2003.