|Lawmakers embraced a bipartisan bill that would modernize procedures for handling sexual harassment allegations
on Capitol Hill, but they were divided Sunday over whether congressmen facing allegations should resign or face
some other immediate consequence.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to say whether Rep. John Conyers Jr.
(D-Mich.) should suffer any immediate penalty over allegations that he sexually harassed a junior female aide in a case that
was resolved with a nearly $30,000 payout to the ex-staffer.
“We are strengthened by due process. Was it one accusation or two? John Conyers Jr. is an icon in our country,” Pelosi told
NBC’s Chuck Todd, when asked whether the longest-serving member of the House should resign.
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But members of Congress have said that the “due process” system is outdated and biased toward insulating the lawmaker
from suffering penalties for misbehavior. “The whole system needs to have a comprehensive shift,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-
Calif.) said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Speier and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) are the lead sponsors of legislation slated for a vote this week that would
streamline the process, amid growing accusations and revelations about members of Congress that are similar to those
involving powerful men from Hollywood, the media and Silicon Valley.
The legislation would require mandatory training on harassment and discrimination for all lawmakers, staff and interns who
work in Congress. “There needs to be one standard for members,” Comstock said on “This Week,” noting that Conyers
benefited from making a payment that was never revealed until a BuzzFeed report last week. “No more secret payments.”
Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has denied any wrongdoing and said his payout was
meant to resolve the issue and did not constitute an admission of culpability.
His payout came from the regular allowance for lawmakers for staff salaries and other administrative costs. As The
Washington Post reported this month, a separate account overseen by the Office of Compliance has paid out more than $15
million in settlements of sexual harassment and other cases of discrimination.
One Democrat, Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), has suggested that Conyers should just resign, something that Comstock voiced
agreement for Sunday, citing how swiftly some high-profile media titans have fallen.
“We have to have the same kind of standards,” she said.
Speier, however, said the House Ethics Committee should add staff to handle the Conyers case “very swiftly” to determine
the severity of the allegations. “If they’re accurate, I do believe that Congressman Conyers should step down,” she said.
But Pelosi would not say whether she would ask Conyers to at least temporarily step aside from his leadership position,
something she has asked other lawmakers embroiled in ethics scandals to do while the investigations are ongoing.
“I’m not sharing that with you right now,” she said on “Meet the Press.”