Two Current Members of Congress Accused of Sexual Harassment, Congresswoman Says

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The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2016. |

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, says two current members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, have been accused of sexual harassment, and that the House has paid out millions in harassment settlements over more than a decade.

Testifying in a hearing on sexual harassment before the House Administration Committee, Reps Speier and Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, accused unnamed sitting male lawmakers of sexual harassment and misconduct, according to CNN.

Two of the accused are sitting members of Congress, Speier said, according to The Hill.

Speier and Comstock also said a lawmaker once exposed his genitals to a female staffer.

Talking to MSNBC, Speier later said, "One member of Congress has settled a claim and there has been a taxpayer settlement … We do know that there's about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years."

Rep. Bradley Byrne, a Republican from Alabama, also testified before the committee, recommending that lawmakers accused of harassment should personally repay the Treasury for settlements.

A spokesperson for Speier later told The Hill that the $15 million figure, provided by the Office of Compliance, applied to all types of complaints handled by the office in the fiscal period between 1997 and 2016, and not just complaints relating to sexual harassment.

On Wednesday, the day after the hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, and Rep. Speier introduced a bill, the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act, aimed at preventing and responding to sexual harassment in Congress, according to PBS.

Asked why harassment occurs in Congress, Speier told PBS, "You know, I think it's because they become intoxicated with power that it continues to happen. It also continues to happen because they have been able to get away with it."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new mandatory anti-harassment and discrimination training for all House members and staff.

The goal, Ryan said, is "not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution."

"As we work with the Administration, Ethics, and Rules committees to implement mandatory training, we will continue our review to make sure the right policies and resources are in place to prevent and report harassment," he added.

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