The House and Senate are finally tackling a big problem happening in their own halls.
The two chambers on Wednesday agreed on a bill to better handle sexual harassment in Congress, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a co-sponsor of the Senate's version of the bill, tells Politico. Other congressional staffers confirmed the news to The Washington Post and CNN.
Following the #MeToo movement's rise late last year, members of Congress started looking inward at the harassment aides and lawmakers had long faced. The reality became particularly clear after former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) allegedly used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, and after he and other lawmakers stepped down after their own sexual harassment scandals.
The House passed its harassment-fighting bill in February, under which lawmakers would be held "personally liable for harassment and discrimination settlements," per Politico. The Senate's latest version only made legislators pay for harassment settlements. Wednesday's compromise agrees on barring legislators from using taxpayer money to settle "harassment and retaliation for harassment claims, but not discrimination," staffers tell Politico.
Opponents of the Senate bill worried accused congressmembers would settle harassment claims as "sex discrimination," per CNN. So Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) say they'll craft a new bill to address discrimination, per Politico. The two chambers hope to pass the still-unfinalized bill within the next few days after working out a few more specifics, Blunt says.