By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, was highly critical of the U.S. Senate for cutting legislation in the “Omnibus” spending bill last month that would have made it illegal for members of Congress to have sexual relationships with employees and use taxpayer money to pay settlements that arise from them.
Amodei, speaking on Nevada Newsmakers Monday, said the U.S. House approved sexual harassment legislation months ago and sent it to the Senate. Despite being praised for its transparency and accountability, the legislation was cut from the final Omnibus bill in the Senate.
“It is not my issue or crusade but holy mackerel — you have north of 400 votes (in U.S. House on the sexual harassment issues) — it was bipartisan, from North, East, South and West. Then it doesn’t make it in there (Omnibus bill)?
“No wonder people hate this process,” Amodei said.
The glaring omission was able to pass because Senate leadership gave the 2,200-page bill to Congress just hours before the final vote was necessary to avoid a federal government showdown, Amodei said.
President Trump, in signing the bill, complained about the rush job to pass the bill and avoid a shutdown.
“It was totally hidden,” Amodei said about the lack of sexual harassment legislation in the Omnibus bill.
The Senate action was “incredibly offensive,” Amodei said.
“By the way, since it was done this way, nobody has to stand up and take responsibility, saying, ‘I don’t want that in the law,’ ” Amodei said.
All 22 female U.S. Senators signed a letter to Senate leadership recently, criticizing it for failure to pass legislation that would help victims of sexual harassment in congressional workplaces. More than 1,500 former congressional aides signed on to a letter late last year, urging Congress to take action.
A push for sexual harassment legislation grew out of the #MeToo movement and news reports about lawmakers settling sexual harassment complaints quietly and using taxpayer money.
Recently, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said he would step down immediately over sexual harassment claims. He used $84,000 of tax money to settle a sexual harassment claim against him in 2014. He promised to pay back the money to taxpayers months ago but did not do so before leaving office.
“It should be against the law to do that,” said Amodei, who did not mention Farenthold.
Democrats have also been accused of sexual harassment. Nevada’s 4th U.S. House Rep. Ruben Kihuen will not seek re-election after he was accused of repeated, unwanted sexual advances. However, no reports of financial settlements with taxpayer money have been reported.
More than $17 million has been paid to victims in federal workplace settlements since 1990, according to the Office of Compliance. That figure includes sexual harassment, age and race discrimination, retaliation and all other types of claims.
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