With impatience growing on Capitol Hill from some members of Congress, Senate negotiators working on sexual harassment legislation are nearing a finalized product with the hopes of getting agreement this week and legislation out in the Senate before the Memorial Day recess, two congressional sources with knowledge of the discussions tell CNN,
Both the Democratic and Republican negotiators, Sens. Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar – the chair and top Democratic member on the Rules committee respectively – expressed confidence publicly Tuesday that they would be able to meet this new timeframe for the legislation that would overhaul how sexual harassment complaints are made and handled on Capitol Hill.
“I think we’re coming to a conclusion here, and hopefully we’ll reach that conclusion very quickly,” said Blunt, a Missouri Republican.
“We are very close,” Klobuchar told CNN, “We hope to get an agreement this week.”
Blunt and Klobuchar will meet face-to-face with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this week to talk about the legislation – an important moment where the negotiators are hoping to present their final agreement on the legislative language, and - most importantly - get the two Senate leaders’ stamp of approval.
As of Tuesday afternoon, though, final language had still not been finalized even while the negotiators both said they are very close.
The legislation would reform the Congressional Accountability Act, which set up the process for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill and would hold lawmakers personally liable for paying settlements.
At issue still is mainly the nuances over the personal liability aspect of the legislation as it was written and passed by the House of Representatives, which would hold lawmakers personally responsible for paying any settlement themselves, rather than allowing them to use taxpayers’ money out of a little-known account of the US Treasury.
Blunt says he and Klobuchar are “largely” in agreement over the language of the legislation but added, “we are not the two that ultimately get to agree,” a nod that Senate leaders will still have to bless the deal.
“(McConnell) really wants to get this done, as does Sen. Schumer, and we think that everything is aligning,” Klobuchar said Tuesday.
After sign off from Senate leaders, the senators would take the legislation back to their respective caucuses to get their approval, with the goal of having a vote either before Memorial Day recess, though Klobuchar said Tuesday the vote could potentially slide into the next session after recess.
Thursday will mark 100 days since the House of Representatives passed their version of the legislation in February.
In the three months since the legislation has been in the Senate’s hands, there have been a series of setbacks and stalled momentum, leading some senators to grow impatient with the pace of negotiations.
New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has taken to Twitter every day for the last eight days to note how long it’s been since the House has acted and the Senate has not.
“It has been 98 days since the House unanimously passed a bill to address sexual harassment in Congress,” the New York senator tweeted Tuesday. “The Senate still hasn’t taken action.”