Former congressional aides push for long-stalled sexual harassment legislation

Posted at 3:02 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 17:02:24-04

In an open letter to Senate and House leaders on Thursday, seven ex-congressional aides urged lawmakers to complete long-stalled sexual harassment legislation on Capitol Hill.

The congressional aides, who are all women, said in their letter which was posted on the ACLU website that they are “dismayed and disheartened by Congress’ failure to act and take care of its own” after months of delayed negotiations have yet to finalize workplace harassment policies in Congress.

“We hoped that our experiences — and those of many more who remain nameless — would spur Congress to fundamentally reform the deeply flawed system it now uses to address claims of harassment and discrimination,” the letter states.

In the year since the #MeToo movement inspired several public claims of sexual assault against members of Congress, little progress has been made to reform the Hill’s policy against harassment and misconduct. The House passed a sexual assault reform bill seven months ago, three months before a similar bill passed in the Senate, but a complete reform to current legislation has yet to occur.

“These true stories of harassment, abuse, and discrimination are a stain on the institution we love and have profoundly changed the lives of those who experienced them,” the women wrote in the letter. “After each of us came forward, we were met with countless, heartbreaking stories from current staffers with similar experiences, and we know that many, many more stories still remain untold.”

The letter also emphasized urgency in completing the reforms before the end of the congressional work period.

“The 115th Congress must act now to effectively address the scourge of harassment and discrimination in its own workforce,” it read.

Aides working on the negotiations on both sides of the aisle, from both the House and Senate, told CNN last week that talks to merge the House and Senate bills into one bill are still ongoing — progress, all sides say, has happened slowly and there is still a genuine commitment to getting something done, eventually. Multiple congressional aides working on the negotiations told CNN that there is growing impatience as the calendar inches towards Election Day.

“I felt pretty good about this prior to the House taking their long scheduled break in August and we haven’t really progressed much since then,” Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, one of the Senate negotiators, told CNN Wednesday. “I don’t know if it is now likely in the working days that we have left that will get this done before the election.”