Male Democratic Senators Take a Stand for Sexual Harassment Reform on Capitol Hill

The Senate’s Democratic men, led by Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, are teaching their GOP cohort a lesson in solidarity: They’re†supporting their female colleagues in a demand to improve†how sexual misconduct†allegations are handled on Capitol Hill.

Congress is no exception to the #MeToo movement, as Democrats were recently reminded when former†Senator Al Franken was exposed for sexual harassment, creating a crisis in the party before he resigned.

While women in Congress have been working on this issue long before the #MeToo movement, on March 28, a bipartisan group of women in the Senate demanded changes to the Congressional Accountability Act, which establishes the framework for reporting misconduct. These female legislators pointed out that the†House already approved reforms, and the Senate shouldn’t be left behind.

Among other things, the House legislation did away with a mediation requirement for sexual harassment complaints; barred sexual relationships between legislators and staff; required lawmakers to personally pay for financial settlements in harassment cases; extended protection to unpaid staffers like interns; and established on Office of Employee Advocacy to provide advocates and support to people filing harassment claims.

These kinds of measures would facilitate reporting, protect people who are filing complaints and increase confidence that the system will actually provide meaningful interventions. For women working in a climate like Capitol Hill, where tolerance of sexual harassment is very entrenched, changing the way the issue is handled sends a message that Congress takes the safety of legislators and their staff seriously.

Despite their request — sent to both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — the Senate has failed to move forward on scheduling a vote. And that’s where Merkley got involved, realizing that he could use his privilege to force a conversation. His Democratic colleagues joined him on a letter submitted to Senate leadership.

The letter reads:

If we are to lead by example, the Senate must revise current law to give the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination a more coherent, transparent, and fair process to tell their stories and pursue justice without fear of personal or professional ruin. If we fail to act immediately to address this systemic problem in our own workplace, we will lose all credibility in the eyes of the American public regarding our capacity to protect victims of sexual harassment or discrimination in any setting.

While Democratic men are on board to push meaningful change, Republicans†don’t share the sentiment — with one surprising exception:†Ted Cruz. The Republican opted†to collaborate with his Democratic peers and support the women of the Senate in calling for better working conditions with clear mechanisms for reporting violations.

According to†Politico, Cruz said: “We should have passed it weeks ago, and so anything I can do to encourage my colleagues ó Republican or Democrat ó to take it up on the floor of the Senate, Iím supportive of doing.”

Take Action!

If you think people working on Capitol Hill — including elected officials — should be protected from sexual harassment on the job, contact your senators. If they were among those who signed on to either letter, ask them what they’re doing to move the vote forward. If they weren’t among the signatories, ask them why they’re dragging their heels on safety, and integrity, in the Senate.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are†some guidelines to help you get started†and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.

Photo Credit: Senate Democrats/Flickr

44 comments

Paul B
Paul B3 months ago

As much as I dislike Franken, I think he got shafted by the #MeToo's. I hate to see that happen to anyone. We must be consistent, and that means innocent until proven guilty, for anyone accused of anything.

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Paul B
Paul B3 months ago

If the real measures are as defined in this article, without the typical fine print that would damage other areas of legislative process, which I always have to question what I read here, then I am all for it.
I believe Congress and anyone in Dc should be bound by the same laws and rules as anyone else in the country. What I fear though are unsubstantiated charges ruining a person's career. Politicians are high profile and subject to false claims.
So as long proof of harassment must meet certain standards before being allowed to be pursued criminally or otherwise, then I am all for it. We have to protect the innocent on both sides. In today's #MeToo movement, too often a mere accusation has been enough to ruin lives. That can't stand going forward.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie F3 months ago

Okay

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Deborah W
Deborah W3 months ago

As usual, the Senate has failed to move forward. And that’s where Merkley got involved, realizing that he could use his privilege to force a conversation. His Democratic colleagues joined him and, together they breathed new life into empty rhetoric which, hopefully would group-herd an additional ally, females, to add muscle to their "cause". In truth, those numbers, if added in good faith to move things forward to a just conclusion, would fall to the wayside as by-catch in their nets once their numbers were harvested. Same sad games still in play.

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Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

Vote Blue in 2018 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Margaret G
Margaret G3 months ago

Wondering if Ted Cruz’ s (Texas Republican Senator up for reelection in 2018) sudden attack of conscience has anything to do with the fact that his Democratic challenger Beto O’Roure is doing surprisingly well.

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Debbi W
Debbi W3 months ago

I'm proud of our Senator, Jeff Merkley. He and Senator Wyden keep battling the extremists and work across the isle.

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Karin Hanson
Karin Hanson3 months ago

Of course the Gross Old Perverts won't go along with this, it would probably be the end to most of their positions, (pun intended).

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Alea C
Alea C3 months ago

Join the blue wave in 2018!!!

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Cathy B
Cathy B3 months ago

Thank you.

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