Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Monday accused both Senate and House leadership of stripping her effort to reform how Congress deals with sexual harassment from this week’s must-pass government spending bill.
“It begs the question: Who are they trying to protect?” Gillibrand wrote in a statement Monday. “I can’t think of any legitimate reason to remove this language other than to protect members of Congress over taxpayers and congressional employees.”
Following revelations that members of Congress had used taxpayer dollars to secretly settle harassment allegations and other claims, Gillibrand and several co-sponsors introduced the Congressional Harassment Reform Act in December.
The bill would make members of Congress personally liable for harassment settlements and would draw back the secretive process currently governing claims of improper conduct.
Gillibrand’s office on Monday said that provisions of her bill were “included in the omnibus bill throughout the negotiation process, but were removed by Leadership at the last minute.”
However, in a statement to Politico Monday, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Don Stewart, said that “while this important issue is being discussed, at no time was language from Sen. Gillibrand’s bill adopted to the legislation and/or stripped.”
“The government funding bill is still being developed, so I don’t have any update on the final bill,” he said.
Spokespeople for Gillibrand, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment Tuesday.
Politico, citing multiple unnamed sources tracking the issue, reported Monday that language on congressional harassment reform was “unlikely” to be attached to the spending bill, which must be passed by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
The outlet noted that the House has already passed a harassment reform bill — which, contrary to Senate Democrats’ wishes, according to one unnamed House aide, also required lawmakers to pay discrimination settlements out of pocket.