WASHINGTON — After months of negotiations, the House and Senate passed a bill Thursday to curb sexual harassment in Congress following a wave of ethics investigations, retirements and sanctions of lawmakers accused of misconduct, including a Nevada representative.
The bill passed both chambers unanimously to move it to President Donald Trump, who also has been accused of improper sexual conduct, for his signature.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both praised the bipartisan legislation.
“It shines a bright light on the scourge of workplace abuse, which has been allowed to fester in the shadows for too long,” Pelosi said.
Freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., did not seek re-election after he was investigated for sexual misconduct.
A House Ethics Committee probe found that Kihuen violated the congressional code of conduct with unwanted advances to two women during his campaign for Congress.
“I extend my sincere apologies to each of these women,” Kihuen said in a statement after a report by the Ethics Committee was released last month.
Kihuen was one of several members of Congress caught up in the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill that led to the retirement or resignation of several lawmakers, including Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
Pelosi had asked Kihuen to resign after she became aware of allegations by a former campaign worker that Kihuen touched her inappropriately.
The Ethics Committee said the accusations by the campaign worker and another victim were found to be credible through documentation, despite Kihuen’s denials to the committee.
The bill passed by Congress streamlines the process and provides protections for victims of sexual harassment. It makes lawmakers or staff who engage in misconduct responsible for paying settlements.
A victim of sexual harassment by Farenthold received an $84,000 settlement from the federal government. Farenthold did not seek re-election and brushed off Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request that he reimburse the federal government.