Comstock Leads, Gets Bipartisan Sexual Harassment Resolution Passed in House

Barbara Comstock is becoming a rock star of sorts on Capitol Hill as women look to her for leadership at a time when sexual harassment allegations are rampant in the news.

Virginia’s only woman in the Congressional delegation, who represents the 10th District, co-sponsored a bipartisan Resolution that would require all members of Congress and their staff to complete mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training. It passed unanimously by voice vote on Wednesday.

At a time when Congress continues to be mired in gridlock along party lines, it is refreshing to see the Republican congresswoman working with Democratic Representative Jackie Speier (CA) who also sponsored the Resolution along with House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), and Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-PA). The Resolution, calling for training during each session of Congress, comes on the heels of a similar measure passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

“It is bipartisan legislation, because bad behavior transcends party labels and predators come from both parties,” Comstock said.  “It is also important that men are joining women in this effort and we have a broad consensus for additional reforms.”

The fact that Comstock has taken the reins on this explosive issue is not surprising coming from a woman who has never backed away from controversial issues including calling for Donald Trump to drop out of the presidential race in the fall of 2016 after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced. The question of sexual harassment allegations against Trump remain.

Comstock, meanwhile, is now the advocate for women who have been intimidated into silence for years. 

“Recent cases of sexual harassment both within Congress, and outside in other industries, make clear that we need increased efforts to provide zero tolerance for any form of sexual harassment in Congress,” she noted.  “This bipartisan Resolution is a first step and more will still be done.”

Earlier this month Comstock testified on the Hill about a sexual harassment case involving a young staffer and a congressman.

After Wednesday’s successful passage of H.Res. 630, Mrs. Comstock reiterated there is no room for sexual harassment in the work place and that there must be zero tolerance for harassment of any kind, especially in Congress. “This legislation we passed here today,” she stressed, “is a strong first step in fundamentally reforming how we address the insidious problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and committing to a healthy, safe working environment free from sexual harassment.”

She added, “As a Mom, former intern, former Congressional staffer and counsel and Justice Department employee, and now a Member of Congress on the Committee that will reform this process, this is truly a watershed moment for those who serve in this body.”

The Resolution mandates educating the workforce in Congress, from Members to interns, on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and having zero tolerance for sexual predators, setting into place accountability and personal responsibility.

Comstock said this is a first step. “Going forward, I will work to reform the reporting process for victims and provide them with an advocate such as a victim’s counsel or Ombudsmen.  There must be no taxpayer-funded settlements for accused Members of Congress and we need transparency and accountability in the process both going forward and in disclosing past settlements.”

Recognizing that there are victims who fear speaking out, Comstock noted, “I support allowing victims who did make settlements with the opportunity to come forward without fear of consequences from non-disclosure agreements.  These and other reforms can and should be adopted as we move forward in providing fundamental reforms to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all.”

“Finally,” she said, “I’d like to thank Dorena Bertussi who, 30 years ago, was the first woman to bravely step up to pursue a successful sexual harassment case against a Member of Congress.  I also thank her for her guidance in helping us address these issues today. In her honor, and all of the women who have faced sexual harassment in the workplace, we need to redouble our efforts.”

Barbara Comstock … still leading.

What the Resolution covers:

  • The Resolution requires that all House Members, Officers, employees, including interns, detailees, and fellows, of the House of Representatives shall complete an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training program during each session of Congress.
  • Each individual must complete the training within 90 days of the session. For new hires, staff must complete the training within 90 days of their hire date during the session. For the current 115th Congress, each individual shall complete the training no later than 180 days after the second session of Congress begins.
  • Each individual will provide their certificate of completion to the Committee on House Administration and the training must be repeated every session of Congress.
  • The Resolution tasks the Committee on House Administration with issuing regulations to ensure compliance and transparency. As part of the Committee’s extensive review, these regulations will be drafted and adopted by the Committee within 30 days of enactment of the Resolution.
  • Additionally, the Resolution requires the posting of a statement of the rights and protections provided to employees of the House of Representatives under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.
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