The House voted Tuesday to prohibit sexual relationships between lawmakers and their employees, a remarkable rule change that brings the institution in line with the military and the private sector after a rash of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations roiled Capitol Hill.
The prohibition, pushed by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), took immediate effect as Congress moved toward changing the system for reporting and adjudicating employees’ claims of sexual harassment. The House approved language Tuesday establishing an office to advocate for employees during that process and a separate bill requiring lawmakers to reimburse taxpayers when they are involved in workplace settlements.
“Thanks to the #MeToo movement, the American public has made it clear that they have had enough,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). “They expect Congress to lead, and for once we are.”
The bipartisan bills are Congress’s most definitive response to the #MeToo campaign and the wave of harassment and misconduct scandals that have led to at least eight members resigning or announcing plans to retire in the past four months. Amid a national reckoning over sexual misbehavior in the workplace, news reports exposing lawmakers’ secretive process for settling harassment complaints with taxpayer dollars pushed House leaders to confront criticisms of the system. – READ MORE
A female California Democratic lawmaker who played a prominent role in launching the #MeToo movement is currently under a #MeToo investigation herself for allegedly sexually harassing and groping two men, a former staffer and a prominent lobbyist. In its bombshell report on the investigation, Politico notes that the high-profile lawmaker’s alleged hypocrisy “threatens to seriously damage the nationwide movement that has been credited with bringing the issue of sexual harassment into the open.”
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who was featured on the cover of Time magazine’s “Silence Breakers” to honor her role as one of the first lawmakers to speak out against sexual harassment, is, as Politico describes her, “a powerful Democratic lawmaker” who serves as chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, and “one of Sacramento’s leading voices on the #MeToo issue.” She was one of hundreds of women from her area who signed a letter declaring “#WeSaidEnough” in protestation of sexual harassment and has claimed to have personally been a victim of harassment.
However, Garcia is also herself currently under investigation after two men accused her of sexual misconduct. Daniel Fierro of Cerritos, a former staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, told Politico that in 2014, when he was 25, Garcia groped him after an Assembly softball game:
He said she cornered him alone after the annual Assembly softball game in Sacramento as he attempted to clean up the dugout. Fierro, who said Garcia appeared inebriated, said she began stroking his back, then squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch before he extricated himself and quickly left. – READ MORE