Ryan Costello Discusses “Me Too” Congressional Act with Laura Ingraham

Congressman, I know you didn’t write the rules, Grassley did back in ’95, and I like Senator Grassley. I think he’s done a phenomenal job on most issues, but are you going to say tonight that you will fight for removal of mandatory counseling and a confidentiality provision in any future legislation?

.. Rep. Costello: The legislation that I have would remove the mandatory counseling. It would also make a Member of Congress personally liable if they engaged in this type of behavior.

Laura Ingraham: What about the names? What about the names? You guys get to keep secrets or do we know who you are? Not you, but you know what I’m saying.

Rep. Costello: The name of the Member of Congress or if it were someone on their staff would be included – that would have to be reported within 60 days of the end of the year. There would also be a survey done every year so that you have staff conveying what they feel the culture is on Capitol Hill.

‘Me Too’ Legislation Aims To Combat Sexual Harassment In Congress

Their proposal would overhaul the process for filing harassment claims as laid out under the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act and processed under the Office of Compliance. The bill would:

  • Waive 30-day requirements each for counseling and mediation sessions before a formal complaint can be filed
  • Create a new, optional in-house victims’ counsel position to provide legal advice and representation for complainants
  • Eliminate requirements that complainants to sign nondisclosure agreements as a condition for filing a complaint, although nondisclosures are still allowed as part of a negotiated settlement
  • Create an online system to initiate complaints
  • Require lawmakers to pay out of pocket for any settled claim where they are identified as the harasser. Other claims are still paid for by taxpayers
  • Require public disclosure of the employing office when a claim is settled and to disclose the settlement amount
  • Require an anonymous “climate survey” of congressional employees every two years
  • Extend all employer protections to interns, fellows and pages

.. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., another cosponsor, said he believed lawmakers would support more transparency for settled claims. “We are employers,” he said, “so how we would process that, how we would handle an employee if they were mistreated, or they did raise a concern, speaks to the character and integrity of how we operate our offices.”

Speier said it was unlikely Congress would act on this legislation this year because the legislative calendar is already crowded through December. However, she noted party leaders have so far been receptive to efforts to make improvements to Capitol Hill culture in response to the recent wave of of high-profile sexual harassment and assault allegations in the news.