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Women lawmakers want USA Gymnastics investigated after Nassar sex abuse scandal

by Dartunorro Clark /  / Updated 
Image: Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar
Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, on Jan. 19, 2018.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

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A bipartisan group of women lawmakers have called for investigations into USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee after former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young girls under the guise of treatment.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire wrote a letter dated Wednesday to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urging them to form a Select Committee to examine how Nassar was able to freely abuse young girls for decades within the two institutions.

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"Dr. Nassar was able to commit these crimes unchecked for 30 years," she wrote. "This was not a case of negligence or failed oversight ... these organizations have serious questions to answer."

Image: Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, speaks during a Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing on March 14, 2017 in Washington.Zach Gibson / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nassar, 54, was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics for two decades and also owned a sports medicine practice at Michigan State University. More than 150 young women publicly confronted Nassar during his hearing, speaking in gut-wrenching terms over the course a remarkable week about the abuse they endured during medical appointments.

Both institutions have been severely criticized for how they handled allegations against him before those accusations became public. Lou Anna Simon, the MSU's president, resigned Wednesday night following Nassar's sentencing.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, backed Shaheen’s effort, adding more pressure for McConnell and Schumer to act.

McConnell's office told NBC News that it would review the letter, but did not commit to forming a dedicated investigatory body.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the minority leader, said "Senator Schumer believes the Senate must take action to investigate the role of the USOC and USA with regards to their handling of the Nassar case, and he looks forward to examining all the proposals to do so."

In the House, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote a letter asking the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to open a separate investigation, calling Nassar's continued abuse of young girls while working for these organizations a "systemic failure."

Image: Representative Carolyn Maloney
U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) speaks at a rally for paid family leave on January 29, 2016 in New York City.Andrew Burton / Getty Images, file

"We own each of his victims, and every young athlete in these programs, a thorough investigation and comprehensive investigation," she said.

The letter was addressed to Reps. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee's chair and ranking member, respectively.

The Senate and House already passed separate, but similar, legislation to reform how amateur Olympic organizations report sexual abuse last year.

Now, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, has renewed a call for both chambers to resolve the differences between the two bills to get the president's signature. The lawmaker will hold a press conference next Tuesday with Rachel Denhollander, a former gymnast and the first woman to go public with her accusations against Nassar, as well as other accusers, to press the point.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told NBC News Wednesday that the House was working to reconcile the two bills into a final piece of legislation, and that "the House could vote on that as early as next week."

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