Politics

House Bill Updating Sexual Harassment Procedures Moves Straight to Floor

Monday markup canceled in favor of accelerating floor action

House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper has canceled a markup of anti-sexual harassment legislation. The measures will now move straight to the floor for a vote Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 11:56 p.m. | The House Administration Committee canceled a scheduled Monday markup of bipartisan sexual harassment legislation so that two measures can move straight to the floor for a vote on Tuesday.

The committee had been scheduled to consider one bill and one resolution, both unnumbered.

The resolution would require every House office to adopt an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy and establish the Office of Employee Advocacy to provide legal assistance and consultation services for House employees regarding harassment procedures.

The bill would update the Congressional Accountability Act with changes to existing congressional procedures for reporting and processing harassment claims. The changes are designed to bring “more transparency, accountability, and stronger protections for employees,” House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper said in a statement.

The bill would, in particular, tackle taxpayer-funded settlements for sexual harassment in Congress. It would require members to personally repay the Treasury for harassment and discrimination settlements rather than use House legal settlement funds or their office accounts.

Both measures will now skip the committee markup process and be brought up under suspension of the rules, a process that requires a two-thirds majority vote for adoption or passage.

“Due to the availability of Floor time, the Committee is moving the bipartisan Congressional Accountability Act Reform Measures (the CAA Reform Act and House Resolution) to the Floor this week,” a House Administration spokeswoman said in a statement. “Once passed, the House Resolution will take immediate effect in the House and the CAA Reform Act will head to the Senate for consideration.”

Harper later Monday told Roll Call that he discussed canceling the markup with Administration Committee members and both Republicans and Democrats agreed, given that they had not planned to offer any amendments.

“We really had hoped to have this done maybe by the end of January, so it’s not urgent,” the Mississippi Republican said. “It’s just that we know that we’ve got everything worked out, we’re ready to go.”

Harper, who is not running for re-election this fall, emphasized that lawmakers are “extremely serious” about the measure and just feel it’s time to get it done.

“The House is committed to an empowering workplace for every employee — free from harassment, discrimination, or bias,” Erin Perrine, spokeswoman for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said in an email. “In consultation with the House Administration Committee, the important update to the Congressional Accountability Act and additional resolution have been added to this week’s floor schedule so that Congress can instill these needed reforms as soon as possible.”

Harper said the resolution does not require Senate action since it only affects House offices but he was not clear on the Senate’s plans for the bill updating the Congressional Accountability Act.

“I’m hopeful that they’ll look at it, because these are reasonable, much-needed reforms,” he said, noting the law has not been updated since it was enacted in 1995. “These are things that will make it clear certain behavior is unacceptable.”

The bill may not be the last action the Administration panel takes.

“You can’t say that it’s ever done,” Harper said. “There are other things that we will look at. We’ll continue to look at how the process works. … We’re still trying to make sure we understand fully what’s there, see if there’s anything we may have missed as we look to make the process work better.”

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