Pressure is mounting for Congress to eliminate the secret settlement slush fund created to keep sexual harassment allegations hush-hush.
After two powerful Democratic lawmakers and a Republican resigned this week due to sexual misconduct, sources inside Washington say that Capitol Hill is about to explode with a firestorm of sexual misconduct allegations levied against its lawmakers. Some say it’s about to get worse, according to Fox News.
Representative Barbara Comstock noted that she was surprised over the number of allegations that are surfacing in Capitol Hill, but noted that in the next few weeks many more similar kinds of allegations could come into the open.
“The seriousness of it is different now. I do think this is a watershed moment,” she said. “It didn’t matter where you came down politically, a predator is a predator.”
Within only a matter of days, three prominent lawmakers have bowed out from their position. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota stepped down after several women accused him of various kinds of sexual misconduct. Three-dozen members of his own party pushed for him to leave.
Arizona Representative Trent Franks, a Republican, stepped down after female staffers claimed he approached them to become a surrogate to bear his child. His abdication came later on the same day as Al Franken’s.
“I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace cause distressed,” said Franks, who had originally planned to step down in January but felt his immediate departure from Congress was more appropriate.
Earlier in the week, Representative John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, was ousted from a seat that he had held for more than five decades. The sexual misconduct allegations surfacing against him are numerous.
“Shame on us for not having addressed this sooner,” said Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, calling the current system in Congress to handle sexual harassment claims “worse than the sexual harassment itself.”
Currently, Congress maintains an age-old system, funded by tax-payer dollars, that allows for clandestine negotiating where sexual harassment claims made against lawmakers are swept underneath the rug. The system dictates that anyone who wants to sue a lawmaker for sexual harassment must agree that they consent to a long, drawn-out process that includes counseling and meditation, as well as a pledge to keep the allegations secret.
Even if the lawmaker is found guilty of a crime, his or her identity remains confidential. According to Fox News, there have been more than 200 settlements filed in the last several years, totaling more than $17 million, all at the expense of the taxpayer.
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