How Congress can combat sexual harassment

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., joined current and former female members of Congress on "This Week" the wave of sexual harassment allegations hitting Capitol Hill and what can be done.
10:49 | 11/26/17

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Transcript for How Congress can combat sexual harassment
Let's get back to the question we have been asking, our powerful men in politics getting a free pass? And is there a double standard? One democratic congresswoman says there is. Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else? And the list is endless. Compare what happened to Harvey Weinstein. Louis C.K. Mark Halperin. All appropriate consequences. Yet, once we get into the realm of politicians, let's get the ethics commission into it. And, you know, let's investigate this. People are sick and tired of the rules in Washington for politicians, like me, being different than they are for regular people. For more, let's bring in Jackie Speier, California Democrat. One of the co-sponsors of the me too congress act, with who has shared her own story of sexual harassment. Barbara Comstock of Virginia. Former congresswoman and member of the house ethics committee, Donna Edwards. And zainab salbi, founder of women for women international. Welcome to all of you. I want to start with you, congresswoman Speier. I want your response to Colleen rice. She is the first to call for congress mman cony erk rs to resign. She said, I've reviewed the allegations against him and they're as credible as they are repulsive. If men who engage in this behavior would speak up, maybe other men would decide to act like decent, civilize adults and not prey on women who work for and trust and admire them. Do you agree that congressman Conyers should step down snimpblts think that the allegations are very serious. And that's why the ethics committee needs to move very swiftly. Not wait years. But very swiftly. Staff up if necessary to determine whether or not those allegations are accurate. If they're accurate, I do believe congressman Conyers should step down. You can't say at this moment WHE whether you believe them? I don't think we know. I think that's why the ethics committee needs to be brought in. We are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is not a court of law. Thest the court of public opinion. I do think they're very serious. And representative Edwards, you sat on the house ethics committee. The settlement payment came from his office account. How difficult will it be to determine the scope and cost of those settlements? I think it's incredibly difficult. The compliance office is not part of the ethics process. And I'm not really sure the ethics process, as it exists right now, is appropriate to deal with these issues. Because -- I think that there has to, at least for this time period, some process set up where staff and members can come forward. It will help to get to the bottom of this in congress. It will help to set up a process by which these things don't happen again. Congresswoman Comstock, you began as an intern, a staffer, now you're a congresswoman. You have heard about the harass pmt does the scope surprise you? We don't know the scope of it. I agree with Kathleen rice. There needs to be one standard for members. That's what this week, we're going to pass a resolution that you mentioned that I introduced with my colleagues. It will mandate training for all members and staff. But that is just a small beginning. We're then going to have more hearings on best practices. Have in-person training. So it's much more interactive. So our youngest staffers, sberns like I was, are going to know what their rights are. Know maybe some of the dangers out there. We're going to say no more secret payments. No taxpayer payments for any of this. We need to know a lot more about that. That's what we have now asked for. More details on. What type of harassment is going on? We don't know at this point. We're hearing anecdote. People are coming to us. One of the things in congresswoman Speier's bill is a survey. So you ne what the ongoing issues are. You have strong training, zero tolerance, and you start enforcing it. The media and corporate America has been firing people. Charlie rose. Here at ABC, mark Halperin. Roger Ailes at fox. We have to have the same standards. When credible people come forward. The Peggy Noonan piece. Detailed reporting. Predators do things over and over. When you do that detailed type of reporting and these stories come forward, yes, I believe them. They have details. There are patterns. This is what predators do. We need to understand, as do the staffers, who the predators are. I want to talk a little bit with you congresswoman Speier about the process they now go through. It's extraordinary. If a victim would like the to report sexual harassment, they have 180 days to do so with the office op compliance. Once that claim is processed, victims are required to undergo 30 days of counseling. Then 15 days to decide if they would like to pursue mediation. That is another 30-day process that is confidentable and will result in a settlement on yet another 30-day period. You get the idea. At a minimum, you're looking at a two-month process once the exclaim processed. How did this happen? How did this convoluted system happen? And what do you do next? I would agree. It's convoluted. I think it was a system set up in 1995 to protect the harasser. This is not a victim-friendly process. And, one victim who I spoke with said, you know, the process was almost worse than the harassment. So, this is an absolutely -- a priority that we must focus on in terms of fixing the system. Doing the sexual harassment prevention training is one step. It's a good step. But it's a small step. The whole system needs to have a comprehensive shift. That's why my legislation would, first of all, have it also apply to interns and fell Lowe's, which, right now, they have nowhere to go. You would not have a mandatory mediation. If you don't want to pursue it. You'll not be subject to mandatory nondisclosure agreement. Beyond that, we swrould a climate survey to make sure we know moving forward what the climate is much like we do in the military now. To determine whether or not sexual harassment and sexual assault continues to be a serious issue. We say zero tolerance. I don't believe that we put our money where our mouths are. And I want to followup with you, zainab. Charlie rose fired from pbs, CBS. What is really at the root of this? We talk about power. Is it power? Or is it more than that? It is power. But I think it is a culture at large that has been come place nnt the discrimination against women. The way I see it, one American woman still getting paid 78 cents to every dollar, it's related to men feeling that they're allowed to touch women, date women, or do whatever with women in inappropriate ways. We have to look at the larger issues. Otherwise, I'm hearing we're addressing the head of the issues. We're cutting the heads off. It's important. Deterrent and fear is important enough to stop men from doing. But we need to look at the body. And the body includes women who are in lower ranking positions. Could be the waitresses. The body allows for the sexualization of women and the discrimination. And not treating women equally. When you talk about the sexualization of women. I have heard you say this rather provocatively. That women are responsible for the culture as well. The way they dress. That -- No, not at all. That sounds like victim shaming. Not at all. Not at all. The fashion industry. All the modeling industry. Or the Hollywood industry, yes, women have played a role. We played a role in our silence. First of all. In seeing some of the things that are wrong behaviors and staying silent about it. And seeing it happen to others. And sometimes, sometimes, in how we co-created a culture that has is sexualizing ourselves. Congresswoman Edwards, I want to get your take. Look, think that, when I look at -- where weave hat the allegations. We focus on them in the public and white collar industries and the politics. I worry about the woman on the the manufacturing floor. The waitress in a restaurant. If we don't deal with this straightforward in congress and politics, then they will feel powerless, even more powerless tan they are right now. I want you to have the last word. Quickly here. Does president trump's defense of Roy Moore hurt this? Well, I think we have a lot of -- there's so much support, bipartisan support. It will be a political issue. I have said I think Roy Moore should step aside, the way Tim Scott did. I want to focus on the the victims. The whole process you talked about with Jackie Speier, there's a broad consensus to get rid of a lot of it so it's much more victim-friendly. The first woman who brought a suit, doreena, recommended we have an only budsman. Or a victim's council. The focus is on the victim. Not all on the men, though it's largely male offenders. Let's focus on the the women. Is recent stories have come forward in torrents. 35 victims of Bill Cosby. Dozens of people. When this comes forward, we need the respect it and protect the women. Thank you all. Up next, that deadly crash. Navy plane in the sea of Japan.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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