As Congress returned to Washington on Tuesday for a lame-duck session to close out the year, a group of former staffers who spoke out against sexual misconduct urged lawmakers to pass a long-promised set of reforms.
Exactly a year ago, over 1,500 former Capitol Hill staffers signed a letter calling on lawmakers to overhaul their arcane policies for addressing sexual misconduct claims, in the wake of the burgeoning Me Too movement last fall. The letter was spearheaded by former staffers Kristin Nicholson and Travis Moore, who formed the group Congress Too.
But House and Senate members still haven’t passed a final bill, even as a number of lawmakers resigned in the last year after a cascade of sexual misconduct allegations, including Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
Failure to pass a final bill at this point would be deeply disappointing to the hundreds of former staffers who have advocated for reform." Letter from former Congressional staffers who spoke out against sexual misconduct
Along with Congress Too, some of the former staffers who shared their stories of sexual misconduct have kept pressing lawmakers to do something.
In a new letter Tuesday, the group urged lawmakers to take action before the end of the year.
“Unfortunately, time is running out to make these improvements a reality, as the lame duck session begins, many critical and time-sensitive issues will be competing for Congress’s attention. We implore you to continue making this one your focus,” they wrote. “Failure to pass a final bill at this point would be deeply disappointing to the hundreds of former staffers who have advocated for reform, and deeply unfair to the thousands of current staffers who continue to be denied some of the most basic resources and protections against workplace harassment and discrimination. It is our fervent hope that the 116th Congress will begin with a fairer, safer, more supportive system in place for all those who serve there.”
Earlier this year, the House and the Senate passed separate, bipartisan reform bills. But for months, members have stalled in negotiations to resolve their differences and pass a unified bill.
Some of the sticking points have reportedly included whether the legislation should prevent lawmakers from using taxpayer money to settle workplace sexual abuse claims, and whether Congress would provide legal assistance for accusers.
Lawmakers had previously said they expected to finalize the bill after the midterm elections. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, both said last month that they hoped to pass something by the end of the year.
A spokesperson for Blunt told HuffPost Tuesday that the negotiations were ongoing.