WASHINGTON (NBC News) — After months of negotiations, lawmakers in the House and Senate have reached an agreement on Wednesday on legislation that would address how sexual harassment claims are dealt with in Congress, it was announced Wednesday.
The legislation would hold members of Congress personally liable for awards and settlements stemming from harassment and related retaliation they personally commit, including those who leave office. They cannot pay with taxpayer funds and would be required to foot the bill within 90 days or their wages could be garnished.
It would not hold members personally financially liable for discrimination complaints, a House aide familiar with the negotiations said.
This is a concession by the House as the Senate did not want to include personal liability for discrimination.
The agreement is the product of a months-long negotiation between the House and Senate who passed their own bills earlier this year.
“I think the final hurdle was getting beyond the election and getting everybody here for more than one day at a time, at the same time,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told reporters about the deal. “Everybody will understand their personal liability and their personal responsibility and that will be a good thing.”
The deal was reached by House Administration Chairman Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., ranking member Robert Brady, D-Penn., Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
The bill, which would update a 1995 law — the Congressional Accountability Act — that governs harassment claims in Congress, aims to improve the current process, which advocates say has imposed a chilling effect on victims of sexual harassment and has hid the conduct of offenders.
Blunt told reporters Wednesday that he expects the Senate to vote on the bill by the end of the week and he spoke to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., about it earlier in the day and said the House is prepared to move on the bill when the lower chamber receives it.