Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday to reform how sexual harassment is handled on Capitol Hill — including holding lawmakers liable for paying for settlements out of their own pockets.
The bill, long stalled by talks and disagreements between the House and Senate, overhauls the law that dictates how sexual harassment claims are overseen.
After passing unanimously in the Senate in the morning and in the House in the afternoon, the bill now heads to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The passage comes more than a year since the #MeToo wave hit Capitol Hill. The bill will reconcile the House- and Senate-passed versions into one bill that overhauls the Congressional Accountability Act. Had Congress been unable to reach an agreement before the end of the year, each chamber’s legislation would have expired.
The pending legislation will require lawmakers to pay for sexual harassment settlements themselves — as opposed to using taxpayers dollars, as has historically been the case.
The bill would also streamline the complaint-filing process by eliminating the arduous process that included a 30-day counseling period, a 30-day mediation period and a 30-day “cooling off period” a staffer had to previously go through before they could even officially make a complaint.
According to the text of the bill, settlements would be handled in a new electronic system and make the names of any personally liable members public.
However, the measure holds individual members personally liable for harassment and retaliation settlements only, not gender discrimination or pregnancy discrimination claims. So members, if held personally liable for discrimination, could still dip into US Treasury funds to settle those kinds of claims.