House, Senate May Go Separate Ways on Anti-Harassment Policy

July 26, 2018 Katherine Scott

The House and Senate are so far apart in negotiations over a sexual harassment policy that Congress might end up with two different standards.

“There’s no requirement that the House and Senate deal with this exactly the same way,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, one of the negotiators, told reporters. “There can easily be, and often are, different procedures for the House and Senate in the same piece of legislation.”

The House and Senate voted on separate harassment policies (S. 2952 and H.R. 4924) earlier this year. Instead of formally going to conference lawmakers decided to try informal discussions.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate staffers have been meeting for about two months.

“We had good meetings at the staff level last week that moved us closer to a conclusion, but we’re not ready to announce any date or specific language yet,” said Blunt (R-Mo.).

“There’s no real timeline,” he said.

Sexual Harassment Policy Talks Begin as Congress Seeks Solution

“We’re going to be out of here Thursday,” House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told Bloomberg Government. “That will kick us into September. So the calendar is not exactly our friend here.”

“When we get to something where we can’t improve where we are, then that’s where you would look at a formal conference. But we’re still moving.”

Among the points of contention: a provision in the Senate bill that would require a court or hearing officer to make a separate finding that a lawmaker was a harasser before the perpetrating lawmaker would be required to repay settlement dollars to the U.S. Treasury.

Senators would be responsible for paying out of pocket for sexual harassment settlements, but not settlements involving other forms of discrimination.

House members also objected to a Senate-passed requirement that the Ethics Committee review every settlement, saying that would take up too many staff resources.

Senators: Let Courts Say When Harassers Must Repay Settlements

To contact the reporter on this story: Katherine Scott in Washington at kscott@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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