Gillibrand slams Congress over harassment law

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke from the Senate floor trying to force Senate leadership's hand to advance sexual harassment legislation, which would overhaul how such complaints are handled on Capitol Hill.

Posted: May 18, 2018 4:15 AM
Updated: May 18, 2018 4:28 AM

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke from the Senate floor Thursday trying to force Senate leadership's hand to advance sexual harassment legislation, which would overhaul how such complaints are handled on Capitol Hill.

"Once again, a problem is staring us right in the face and we are looking the other way," Gillibrand said, her remarks coinciding with a symbolic 100 days since the House of Representatives passed their version of the legislation.

"Enough is enough, we should do better," she continued. "We have waited a hundred days and we should not have to wait any longer, so I urge my colleagues to do the right thing now to support this bill, fix this system here in Congress that is failing ... on this issue of sexual harassment. This one is as easy as it gets. So lets have a vote. And lets pass it."

Gillibrand used a procedural maneuver to draw attention to her bill but it's not expected to get a floor vote at this point, according to a GOP leadership aide.

RELATED: Congress releases some specific numbers on settlements for sexual harassment, discrimination

In the three months since the fate of the legislation has been in the Senate's hands there have been a series of roadblocks, stumbles and stalled momentum as Senate negotiators they have worked to rewrite parts of the legislation to a product that can pass in the upper chamber. The legislation would reform the Congressional Accountability Act, which set up the process for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill and would hold lawmakers personally liable for paying settlements.

The Senate negotiators, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota who have been working on the compromise legislation, both told CNN this week they are nearing a finalized version of the legislation and hope to get agreement this week and legislation out in the Senate before the Memorial Day recess.

"I think we're coming to a conclusion here and hopefully we'll reach that conclusion very quickly," Blunt said Tuesday.

"We are very close," Klobuchar echoed Tuesday. "We hope to get an agreement this week."

At issue is mainly still the nuances over the personal liability aspect of the legislation as it was written and passed by the House of Representatives, which would hold lawmakers personally responsible for paying any settlement themselves, rather than allowing them to use taxpayer's money out of a little-known account of the US Treasury.

"(Talks) are continuing," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also of New York, said Wednesday afternoon when asked by CNN about the status of negotiations, "We are making progress."

Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, told CNN on Thursday, the meetings have been "regular and constant" as they work toward getting agreement within that group, which has kept Senate leaders apprised of the negotiations.

This story has been updated.

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