MURPHY, BLUMENTHAL, MALE COLLEAGUES BACK UP WOMEN OF THE SENATE, CALL FOR URGENT ACTION ON CONGRESSIONAL #METOO LEGISLATION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined 30 of their male Senate colleagues, led by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in joining calls led by the women of the Senate for the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders to bring to the Senate floor legislation reforming how Congress handles cases of sexual harassment. 

On March 28, all of the currently serving women Senators of both parties sent a letter to Senate leadership expressing disappointment that Congress failed to address this urgently needed reform in the March omnibus bill, and pressing for immediate action on bipartisan legislation to address the problem. 

In today’s letter, 32 additional Senators echoed the women’s call, saying: 

“We write to express our support for the letter you received dated March 28, 2018, and signed by all 22 of our women colleagues, and echo their disappointment that the Senate has failed to enact meaningful reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.

“We join their call for the full Senate to immediately consider legislation that would update and strengthen the policies and procedures available for those who have been impacted by sexual harassment and discrimination in Congress,” they continued.

In the months since the #MeToo movement emerged, Congress has come under scrutiny for its own procedures to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, which often involve secretive payouts of taxpayer money. Many Senators have called for increased accountability and reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act, the law that governs Congress’s handling of sexual harassment in the workplace. However, Senate leadership has yet to bring any of these proposals to the floor.

“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,” the Senators wrote today. “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. … We urge you to bring legislation before the full Senate without delay.” 

In addition to Blumenthal, Murphy, and Merkley, the letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Angus S. King Jr. (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-NM), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Leader McConnell and Senator Schumer,

We write to express our support for the letter you received dated March 28, 2018, and signed by all 22 of our women colleagues and echo their disappointment that the Senate has failed to enact meaningful reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. We join their call for the full Senate to immediately consider legislation that would update and strengthen the policies and procedures available for those who have been impacted by sexual harassment and discrimination in Congress. 

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 we commend the Senate for requiring anti-harassment and discrimination training for all Senators and staff at least once each Congress with the passage of S.Res.330, this is only a small first step. Broader changes are necessary to truly end sexual harassment and discrimination in Congressional workplaces. Specifically, we must reform the Congressional Accountability Act. As the women of the Senate wrote last week, “The time has come to rewrite the CAA to provide a more equitable process that supports survivors of harassment and discrimination.” 

Bringing Congressional Accountability Act reform legislation up for debate would be a good use of the Senate’s limited floor time since there is already bipartisan support for several key policy changes, including allowing victims to choose their own path to resolve a complaint instead of mandating secret mediation and counseling.  There is also bipartisan support for requiring Members of Congress to be financially liable for harassment or discrimination they personally commit instead of forcing taxpayers to pay the bill on their behalf. Finally, there is a broad consensus that Members of Congress should not be allowed to hide settlements from the public unless the victim seeks privacy.

Again, echoing our Senate colleagues, “Everyone deserves to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination.” We urge you to bring legislation before the full Senate without delay to ensure that the congressional workplace embodies this ideal. 

Sincerely,

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