Bill: Lawmakers Must Pay Sexual Misconduct Settlements Out-of-Pocket

Al Franken, John Conyers
AFP/Getty Images
PENNY STARR

Democrats who are hoping that President Donald Trump will face harsh repercussions for paying settlements to women who allege relationships with him passed legislation on Thursday that requires them to make payments for sexual harassment with their own money.

Current law addressing sexual misconduct that was put in place in 1995 — ironically when Bill Clinton was in the White House — requires an accuser to get counseling, wait 30 days, and allowed accused lawmakers to use a slush fund of taxpayer money to pay off their accusers.

The Huffington Post reported:

Part of the reason it took Congress all year to get this done is because the House wanted tougher punishments and more transparency when lawmakers sexually harass or discriminate against staff, while Senate Republicans, for some reason, insisted on watering down those provisions.

House lawmakers, for example, wanted to make members of Congress pay out of pocket for discrimination settlements too and wanted to provide legal representation to all accusers. But the Senate, which finally caved on requiring lawmakers to pay out of pocket for sexual harassment settlements, rejected both of those provisions and neither ended up in the final bill.

The passage of the bill, which President Donald Trump has to sign into law, is Congress’s response to the #MeToo movement launched last year, wherein women across the country accused men ranging from Hollywood moguls to media celebrities and members of the House and Senate of sexual harassment and worse.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) spearheaded the movement in Congress last year after announcing that she, too, had been the victim of sexual misconduct as a young congressional staffer. She was one of the main sponsors behind the House legislation, and she promised to push next session to put that chamber’s tougher terms back in place.

“Taxpayers should never foot the bill for Members’ misconduct,” Speier said in a statement provided to the Huffington Post. “And having spoken with many survivors, the process of going up against a lawyer for the institution and the harasser was as traumatic, if not more traumatic, than the abuse they suffered. … We are committed to offering victims the tools they need to pursue justice. We will address these issues in the next Congress.”

The law is not retroactive, so the members who have left their Congressional seats because of sexual misconduct charges will not be affected, including Blake Farenhold (R-TX), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), John Conyers (D-MI), and Al Franken (D-MN).

The Daily Caller asked Speier why lawmakers paying off women who make accusations against them differs from what Trump is alleged to have done when his lawyer paid funds to women who claimed to have had a relationship with him.

“They’re totally unrelated,” Speier told The Daily Caller on Wednesday. She later explained, “One was to impact an election and the other was bad behavior within Congress.”

“When pressed further about the Congressional settlements being taxpayer money, as opposed to any money allegedly paid to Stormy Daniels through Michael Cohen, Speier responded, “I’m the one who has carried the legislation to make sure that members are held accountable. These members are now gone. There’s no one left who was sexually harassing.”

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