US Congress targets sex harassment, lawmaker faces pressure to quit


Several US industries have been embroiled in sexual harassment scandals, notably Hollywood and the media. 

Published: 30th November 2017 01:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2017 01:13 AM   |  A+A-

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WASHINGTON: Troubled by revelations of sexual misconduct within their ranks, US lawmakers on Wednesday prepared to mandate anti-harassment training for themselves, as pressure mounted on an iconic congressman to resign amid accusations against him.

Congressional leaders were also facing calls by some lawmakers to lift a confidentiality agreement -- aimed at protecting Washington's accused -- in order to allow an alleged victim of harassment by Congressman John Conyers to tell her story publicly.

"We're taking the issue of sexual harassment very seriously," House Speaker Paul Ryan said shortly before the chamber was expected to pass a resolution requiring anti-harassment training for all lawmakers and staff in Congress.

"We cannot and we will not tolerate that kind of behavior."

The Senate passed similar training requirements earlier this month.

Several US industries have been embroiled in sexual harassment scandals, notably Hollywood and the media. 

But the issue has burst into view in US politics, too, with several recent and damning revelations, notably a Republican former judge in Alabama, Roy Moore, who refuses to quit his US Senate race despite multiple accusations that he assaulted or pursued teenage girls when he was in his thirties.

The issue in Congress "is something that has to be resolved," said Gregg Harper, who chairs the committee which oversees the office that handles harassment complaints.

Conyers, an 88-year-old civil rights icon, is one of two Democrats known to be facing misconduct accusations. The other, Senator Al Franken, has apologized for some of his actions including touching women without their consent.

Ryan said it was up to Conyers whether he should resign.

"I know what I would do if this happened to me," Ryan said. "I will leave it up to him to decide what he wants to do."

Democratic leaders, keenly aware of how the scandal rocking Congress might dampen enthusiasm among women voters in next year's congressional and local elections, insisted they were taking complaints seriously.

"I will do everything I can to ensure that there is accountability at the end of the day," Democratic caucus chairman Joe Crowley told reporters. 

The House and Senate are conducting ethics investigations on Conyers and Franken, respectively. But resignation calls from within their own party have begun. 

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a Democrat who has urged both men to quit, wrote Speaker Ryan on Wednesday urging him to release a Conyers accuser from the confidentiality agreement she signed.


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