The Senate must begin debating legislation helping people who work in Congress pursue claims of sexual harassment or discrimination, all 22 female senators said Wednesday in a letter to the chamber's leaders. "Inaction is unacceptable," the group wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The letter, signed by 18 Democratic and four Republican women, was an unusual bipartisan display of public pressure on party leaders, the AP reports. The letter comes as lawmakers continue reacting to allegations of sexual harassment that have swept Congress and the entertainment, media, and other industries. In recent months, at least seven members of Congress have resigned or decided against seeking re-election following allegations of sexual misconduct.
The House approved legislation in February requiring lawmakers found culpable of violations to reimburse the Treasury within 90 days if they've used federal money to pay claims against them. Lists of offices reaching sexual harassment settlements would be published twice annually. The legislation would also speed processes enacted in 1995 for harassment complaints, eliminating required counseling and mediation before people can file cases. Employees could work out-of-office while their complaints are investigated. David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said he didn't know when a bipartisan group would finish crafting a Senate bill. He added that McConnell "supports members being personally, financially liable for sexual misconduct in which they have engaged." In a written statement, Schumer said, "We strongly agree that the Senate should quickly take up legislation to combat sexual harassment on Capitol Hill."