Lawmakers hold hearing on sexual harassment in Congress

By JUANA SUMMERS , CNN
Headline Goes Here Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The Speaker's rostrum in the U.S. House of Representatives

WASHINGTON - House lawmakers on Tuesday will review the chamber's sexual harassment policies in the wake of sweeping allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment that have rocked powerful institutions and industries across the country.

The hearing by the House administration committee, which oversees the chamber's operations, is part of a review of how the House handles sexual harassment claims.

It comes amid growing calls for an overhaul of the way Congress handles allegations of sexual harassment, including a letter signed by more than 1,500 former Hill staffers who want to see reform for what they say are "inadequate" sexual harassment policies in Congress. A number of lawmakers have also come forward and shared stories of harassment they faced, either during their time as lawmakers or when they previously worked on Capitol Hill as aides.

There is currently no requirement for sexual harassment training in the House of Representatives, but individual offices may voluntarily have their staffs attend trainings offered by the Office of Compliance. The Senate just last week passed a resolution making sexual harassment training mandatory, not just for staffers and interns, but also for Senate lawmakers.

Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell support ramping up sexual harassment training, as does House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Earlier this month, Ryan called on House members and staffs to step up their sexual harassment training.

"I strongly encourage you to complete sexual harassment training and to mandate the training for your staff. We can and should lead by example," Ryan said in a letter to members and staff. "Our goal must be a culture where everyone who works in our offices feels safe and able to fulfill their duties."

Meanwhile, several Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would change the way sexual harassment complaints are handled.

California Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat who has gone public with her own allegations of sexual assault while she served as a Hill aide decades ago, has proposed legislation that would change the House's policy and make sexual assault training mandatory for members and their staff.

In the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, is proposing a bill that would streamline the reporting process in the Office of Compliance, the little-known office that handles such complaints.

Copyright 2017 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.