Following the news that, after months of negotiations, members of Congress reached a bicameral, bipartisan agreement to update its sexual harassment policy, Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee released the following statement:
“Yesterday, the House and Senate finally agreed to a bipartisan deal to ensure its own employees are protected in the workplace. The deal, while not perfect, brings the First Branch of government into the 21st Century on harassment issues and shows that there are members on both sides of the aisle able to work together to do the right thing.
Last week, when it was not clear that legislation would be passed before Congress left town, Democracy Fund’s Betsy Wright Hawkings and I warned that failing to lead on harassment would be devastating to the institution of Congress, and further erode the trust of the American people in its ability to get things done. Inaction was not an option.
Thankfully, it has not come to that. With passage of this measure, Congress will have made real progress on rules to protect the rights of its staff against misconduct — bringing it up to the standards of the rest of the country.
We have yet to see the final bill, so it remains to be seen what compromises between the chambers were made. Important changes, such as making the members themselves — rather than taxpayers — foot the bill, and making the settlements public, do appear to have been included.
The fact is, we know any such policy will always be, in a sense, a “work in progress,” and the need to periodically revisit it is crucial; Congress should not wait for a series of public scandals to ensure it is living up to its values and leading by example.
We will continue to monitor the bill’s progress, and always advocate for strong, common-sense protections essential to the health of the institution of Congress.”