Rep. Kathleen Rice said that the congressional ethics committees being proposed as a way to investigate serial sexual assault offenders on Capitol Hill are “not real” and “not accountable.”
Speaking on CNN’s “New Day” Friday, Rice, a Democrat and former prosecutor, said that the ethics committee will not offer a level of true accountability to offenders.
“Saying that we’re going to have these allegations against politicians go before an ethics committee that can sometimes take a couple of years, no offense to my colleagues who are on the ethics committee, that’s not real. That’s not real. And that’s not accountability,” Rice said.
Rice said that the main pitfall of the committees is it asks colleagues to judge colleagues.
“The way the system works is it is does not benefit – there’s no benefit to a woman who comes out and says, ‘I’m being harassed.’ There are only professional consequences,” said Rice.
She went on to say that many of the accusations against members of Congress, like Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, who she has called on to resign, may not pass beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore may never be fairly adjudicated.
“We don’t have a legal standard here. We’re talking about the court of public opinion. We’re talking about holding men accountable for their actions,” Rice said. “And a lot of these men, against whom these allegations have been made, are never going to face their day in court. The victims in these cases are never going to have their day in court.”
Rice’s comments come on the tail of a growing list of members of Congress who have been named for sexual harassment, including Conyers and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.
Female lawmakers, staffers and interns have told CNN that there is a pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Earlier this month, Reps. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, and Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, accused unnamed sitting male lawmakers of sexual harassment and misconduct, including an allegation that a male lawmaker exposed his genitals to a female staffer.