House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday weighed in on the sexual harassment claims current and former female lawmakers are making against their male colleagues in Congress, saying she supports legislative action in Congress to address the issue.
“Most of — I didn’t know about some of these things, because there is a nondisclosure provision. That has to go,” Pelosi told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked what she plans to do about the harassment allegations. “But, anyway, we’re at a tipping — we’re a different place. I’m kind of, I don’t want to say excited about it because it’s all very, very sad, but it’s hopeful that we can do something very, very strong right now.”
Pelosi’s comments come after four California lawmakers — former Republican Rep. Mary Bono and former Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis, former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, and current Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez — came forward with allegations of sexual harassment by their colleagues in a recent report by the Associated Press.
California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier recently discussed her own allegations of sexual harassment and assault she experienced as a young congressional staffer. Speier introduced legislation on Friday that would require sexual harassment training for members of Congress and their staff. Her office also said she plans to introduce another bill to address broader reforms to the current complaint process within the Office of Compliance, which is the agency with responsibility to handle sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill under the Congressional Accountability act of 1995.
Right now, there is no requirement for sexual harassment training in the House of Representatives, although each individual office may elect to voluntarily have their staff attend training by the Office of Compliance.
In addition, if a congressional aide wants to file a formal complaint, she or he must first go through a lengthy, multi-tiered process that could drag out over months before an official complaint can even be formally lodged.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called for House members and their staff to step up sexual harassment training Friday.
“I strongly encourage you to complete sexual harassment training and to mandate the training for your staff. We can and should lead by example,” Ryan said in a letter to members and staff. “Our goal must be a culture where everyone who works in our offices feels safe and able to fulfill their duties.”
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, says he backs a House administration committee review of how the House handles sexual harassment claims.
“The speaker believes the House Administration Committee is right to review the standing procedures and resources available to staff,” Strong said in a statement provided to CNN.
The House administration committee has recently launched a review of current sexual harassment training and policies, and the committee announced Friday that it will hold a hearing on the topic November 14.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, announced Friday that she is introducing legislation to combat sexual harassment in Congress, which would overhaul the current process staffers take to report sexual harassment.
In addition to mandating annual sexual harassment training for members and staff, the legislation would require a “climate survey” to assess the scope of the problem in Congress, give interns access to the same resources as full-time staff, and drop the requirement that victims go through mediation before filing a complaint.