House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Wednesday morning that the House plans to stop using taxpayer money to pay settlements to victims of sexual misconduct.
“Yes, and that’s among the things we’re working on right now,” Ryan said on the Wisconsin radio program “The Jay Weber Show” when asked if Congress would stop using taxpayer money for settlements.
As a spate of lawmakers and high-profile media figures have recently been accused of sexual misconduct, Congress’ outdated, arduous system for addressing sexual harassment has come under scrutiny. In particular, lawmakers have criticized the fact that Congress has secretly paid settlements to sexual harassment victims for years.
When the host argued that using taxpayer money for those settlements is “indefensible,” Ryan said he agreed.
The speaker did not specify how Congress would compensate victims of sexual harassment if Congress’ Office of Compliance stopped paying settlements. He said that House Republicans are working on an entire package to overhaul the system for addressing sexual misconduct on Capitol but did not offer details.
A bipartisan bill to overhaul the system introduced in November would require the Office of Compliance to publish the amounts of settlements and the office in which the alleged behavior took place. It would also require members, but not staff, to pay Congress back for the settlement.
That same bill would also make changes to the reporting process, such as doing away with a requirement that victims undergo counseling before filing an official complaint, and would give additional protections to victims.