Male Democratic senators are preparing to join female senators from both sides of the aisle in supporting legislation to overhaul workplace sexual harassment rules on Capitol Hill.
According to Politico, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) appealed to chamber leaders in a letter, encouraging floor debate on the issue.
The letter, written by male Democrats, is addressed to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and is co-signed by 31 male Democratic senators.
The letter is set to be released sometime Thursday, but a copy obtained by Politico says that if they don’t act soon, Congress will “lose all credibility in the eyes of the American public regarding our capacity to protect victims of sexual harassment or discrimination in any setting.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the GOP co-author of the bill, supports the call for a rewrite of the sexual harassment rules but has not yet signed the letter.
Cruz is expected to sign on to the letter on Thursday.
“Sen. Cruz appreciates Sen. Merkley’s efforts to urge a vote on Gillibrand-Cruz, and he told Sen. Merkley last week he’d be more than happy to sign a letter,” a spokesperson for Cruz told Politico. “In fact, Sen. Cruz has personally urged GOP leadership to mark up Gillibrand-Cruz, and he is working to get additional senators to sign the letter in support of the legislation.”
Despite Cruz’s actions, no other Republican male has heeded his advice.
Sen. Schumer was the only male Democrat to not sign on, because he was on the relieving end of the letter, but he has expressed repeated support for taking up the harassment legislation passed in the House with bipartisan support a few months ago in February.
The House bill, which received support from across the aisle, came after a half-dozen lawmakers were forced to either resign or retire last fall in light of sexual harassment allegations, would require lawmakers to pay for harassment or discrimination claims out of their own pocket, instead of using taxpayer-funded settlements. The legislation would also mandate transparent reporting of previous harassment payouts and eliminates the requirement for Hill employees to seek counseling and mediation prior to pursuing a claim.
The Gillibrand-Cruz bill similarly follows the outline set by the House bill.
“The bill works like this: no taxpayer-funded settlements for politicians, the people who suffered harassment get the right to decide whether to go public or not, no more unnecessarily prolonged process or ‘cooling off’ requirement before employees can file their claim, and a survey for staff members every other year,” Gillibrand wrote in a Forbes op-ed. “These are simple steps that would show that Congress is protecting victims and not harassers. Congress needs to show leadership and make it clear that we won’t tolerate sexual harassment anymore.”
The latest from Mitch McConnell is that Senate negotiators in both parties were “continuing to work on harassment legislation” — not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement.