Stefanik bill would nix sexual harassment fund

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, of the 21st Congressional District, co-introduced legislation Wednesday to make settlements paid to victims of sexual harassment by Congress members come from their harasser’s pockets instead of taxpayers.

Co-sponsored by Republican Texas Rep. Pete Olson, the Responsible Settlements for Victims and Taxpayers Act amends the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.

Funds made possible through this act have been used to pay out $15.2 million in settlements to sexual harassment victims since 1997, compensating the victims of several congressmen with taxpayer dollars.

The new act would ensure victims are still compensated while shifting the financial burden off American citizens and onto the perpetrators of the harassment. The money paid out would come from taxpayer dollars in the Treasury, which would be reimbursed by the guilty congress person.

If the congress person does not reimburse the Treasury in full within 180 days of the settlement, the secretary of the Treasury would withhold transfers to that person’s federal retirement account, also known as a Thrift Savings Account, until the money has been paid.

This would also apply if a representative or a senator leaves office before reimbursing the Treasury.

“Taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for lawmakers’ inappropriate behavior,” Stefanik said. “This commonsense legislation addresses the recent and shocking reports of abuse by some on Capitol Hill, and it protects hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”