WASHINGTON – It’s been one year since the #MeToo movement hit Capitol Hill, when an influx of women speaking up led to the ouster of a handful of members of Congress.
But the House and the Senate have yet to complete their work on reforms to the Congressional accountability system that puts taxpayers on the hook for paying out settlements.
While the House and Senate have individually passed their separate bills, they still haven’t reached agreement on one unified measure although progress is being made, sources say.
Still, sticking points remain. While the House bill makes members personally responsible for paying out claims of sexual harassment or abuse, an aide in California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier’s office said the Senate bill doesn’t include that provision.
Speier’s office is working on the negotiations between the two bodies.
Senate negotiators, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., met on Tuesday to discuss the legislation. “This is the moment, we should work to get it done, and so it’s just trying to negotiate these last few things,” Klobuchar told NBC News.
As Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of when the issue really exploded on Capitol Hill, here’s a look back at some of NBC News’s reporting on the saga:
- Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., spearheaded the #MeTooCongress movement by sharing her story of sexual harassment from her time as a Congressional staffer and inviting others to do the same. Speier told a House committee she knew of one sexual harasser in each party currently serving in Congress, while Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock relayed a story of sexual harassment forcing a staffer to quit her job. That same week, Speier and other members introduced the Me Too Congress Act to attempt to remove barriers delaying Congressional staff from filing formal complaints.
- Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers resigned under pressure after revelations he paid an accuser a settlement out of his personal office funds, bypassing the official process. His resignation was messy, as many democrats were reluctant to see the Congressional Black Caucus founder go.
- Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold found himself facing criticism for an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement claim paid out to a former employee. This settlement was the first of its kind to be made public and ultimately led to Farenthold’s resignation.
- By early December, Democratic women helped led the charge to push out Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who resigned resign after multiple women accused him of harassment or sexual misconduct.
- Shortly after, Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks resigned amid an ethics investigation into sexual misconduct. Franks said in a statement that he had discussed his interest in finding a surrogate mother with two women in his office, making them uncomfortable. His wife has struggled with infertility, he said.
- Newly revealed documents uncovered the largest settlement uncovered to date, $220,000 in taxpayer dollars paid out to a congressional staffer who accused Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., of making unwanted sexual advances toward her and threatening to fire her. In order to receive that settlement, the accuser was forced to resign and agree to never seek employment within the Congressional office where she worked.
- Data provided to the House Administration Committee showed that taxpayers paid an additional $115,000 to settle sexual harassment complaints in Congress from 2008 to 2012. The information did not include the names of victims or those accused, nor did it include other ways members of Congress can settle claims, including with individual congressional funds.
- The Senate, after pressure, finally releases data, hours after the Senate left for the holidays, on their harassment claims. Of the $600,000 listed over the past decade for harassment claims, just one claim for $14,260 for "sex discrimination and reprisal" — failing to include a $220,000 settlement for sexual harassment in 2014 that was recently made public.
- In February, 2018, the House of Representatives easily passed major reforms to the way sexual harassment is reported in Congress, a measure aimed at overhauling the secretive, excessively complicated system in place for decades.
- In May, the Senate passed its version of the legislation by a unanimous vote. But some House members arguing the Senate bill lacks enough accountability of members who are accused of improper behavior, concerns that have deadlocked Congress to this day.
- This week, a group of advocates working to root out sexual harassment on the Hill wrote a letter to Congressional leaders, imploring them to come to an agreement and pass the remaining sexual harassment reforms.
NBC's Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Marianna Sotomayor, Alex Moe, Frank Thorp V, Garrett Haake and Rich Gardella are receiving the Joan Shorenstein Barone Award at Wednesday night's Radio & Television Congressional Correspondents' Dinner for their reporting on sexual harassment in Congress.