Ted Cruz is one of the most conservative members of the Senate while Kirsten Gillibrand is his ideological foil. What can bring these two together? Hamas did at one point in 2014. Now, the two are together again in pushing legislation that goes after sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill following a flurry of allegations against several Senators and Congressmen.
The Congressional Harassment Reform Act seeks to bring more transparency to the workplace misconduct policy that has shielded members of Congress from public scrutiny when they’ve had settlements paid out on their behalf. It also allows accusers the choice of whether to make their claims public or not.
Gillibrand said the bill will improve the tracking of complaints through an online system and create a biennial climate survey of Congress. In addition, members and staff would have to undergo training, and those who report harassment would no longer be required to attend counseling and mediation. Also, for the first time, interns and fellows on Capitol Hill would receive the same resources as full-time employees.
Cruz and Gillibrand, who has called on President Donald Trump to resign over allegations of sexual assault, filed the legislation the same day a Republican in the Texas delegation announced that he would not run for re-election in light of sexual misconduct allegations.
The uproar over the policy started when reports surfaced that taxpayer money was being used to “hush” people who accuse members of Congress of sexual misconduct. This legislation would change that, making the accused pay the settlements if they are found to be “personally liable for harassment or discrimination.” Currently, those settlements are paid through a once-secret fund, not by the accused or their offices.
“In recent months, we’ve seen wave after wave of appalling sexual harassment and assault allegations — from Hollywood, to newsrooms, to the halls of Congress. And powerful men who have abused their positions have been held to account,” Cruz said in a prepared statement.
With seven Republican Senators backing the bill already, it should have plenty of steam to make it to the President’s desk.