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The House just passed a bill to reform how Congress handles sexual harassment claims



The House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that aims to overhaul the way Congress handles claims of sexual harassment.

The bipartisan bill comes after several members of Congress from both parties in both chambers have resigned or announced their retirement over allegations of sexual misconduct in recent months.

The bill, which was passed by a voice vote, includes significant reforms to the Office of Compliance, the body responsible for handling sexual harassment claims and other disputes in Congressional offices. Last year it was reported that the office had facilitated taxpayer-funded settlements for allegations against members of Congress.

"Today, this bipartisan group of legislators is taking a historic step that has plagued this institution for generations. For years members of Congress have gotten away with truly egregious behavior by mistreating their staff," Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, whose METOO Act laid the basis for the legislation passed Tuesday, said just before the vote, according to Buzzfeed. "Thanks to the Me Too movement, the American public has made it clear that they have had enough. They expect Congress to lead, and for once we are."

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The new bill requires members of Congress to reimburse those settlements withing 90 days. If they do not, their salary is docked until the settlement is paid off, under the new bill.

Under the new bill, House offices are required to adopt anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ordered House offices to participate in mandatory sexual harassment training for both members and staff.

The bill also creates the new Office of Employment Advocacy, which is meant to advocate for employees who may seek to file complaints.

The Senate still needs to pass an overhaul bill of its own before the new reforms become law.

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