Ryan Touts Upcoming Congressional Sex Harassment Reforms - NBC 7 San Diego
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Ryan Touts Upcoming Congressional Sex Harassment Reforms

"Let's not make this some partisan food fight, let's give this issue the respect it deserves"

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    House Members Introduce ME TOO Congress Act

    U.S. House members are formally introducing legislation overhauling the House’s system for handling sexual harassment complaints. Scott MacFarlane reports. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017)

    A "slew of reforms" dealing with congressional sexual harassment will be unveiled at the end of this week, House Speaker Paul Ryan promised Wednesday morning.

    The Wisconsin Republican has been working closely with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and met another Democrat congresswoman who has championed the issue, Ryan said in an interview on the "Today" show, and it must not be treated as partisan in-fighting.

    "We need to make sure that this moment is the cultural-changing moment it needs to be," Ryan said. "Let's not make this some partisan food fight, let's give this issue the respect it deserves."

    Ryan noted that the House has already passed a rule requiring sexual harassment prevention training for representatives and staff, and said the new reforms being unveiled this week will guarantee victims rights and a clear path for reporting problems and "show how Congress is going to get ahead of problem."

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    Sexual misconduct accusations have led several members of Congress to announce they are retiring, including Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. (who has not yet left the body); Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. Scrutiny of their actions has led to a focus on congressional payouts, which the Office of Compliance revealed Tuesday included nearly $175,000 in settlement payments related to congressional sexual harassment and sex discrimination accusations between 2008 and 2012.

    Last month, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced the ME TOO Congress Act in the House to require, among other things members of Congress to pay costs of settlements, instead of taxpayers. Speier, whom Ryan said he recently met with, has said she experienced sexual harassment when she was an aide on Capitol Hill.

    Ryan was also asked in the interview about the sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, though he apologized for saying to then-"Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush in 2005 that he could do whatever he wanted to women because he is famous.

    Ryan said he is not familiar with all of the accusations against Trump and referred to remarks recently made by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, arguing that Congress doesn't prosecute crimes — though it does look into ethics matters and can impeach a president for, as the Constitution puts it, "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

    Ryan said his focus is on fixing Congress.

    "I want my daughter to be able to grow up in an economy, to go into to a work, public or private sector, where she's not being harassed, she's being empowered," Ryan said.