Americans were rightfully outraged when they learned that members of Congress had used taxpayer dollars to pay settlement claims to alleged victims of sexual harassment.
They were even more outraged when they saw the numbers. The secret payouts for harassment claims, of which there have been more than 200, amounted to more than $17 million. There's no telling so far how much of that money went to silence sexual assault accusers.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is seeking to release the names of lawmakers who used this "hush fund." She's a co-sponsor of the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act, which would require full disclosure of the settlements within 30 days.
Using taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims against members of Congress is disgusting. We're going to release the names of those who used this hush fund, and these individuals will pay this money back to the American people with interest. https://t.co/Wloe8uw0QT— Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) November 30, 2017
"Like most of my colleagues, I was completely disgusted to find out about this," Blackburn said.
When claims are presented, she explained, the names are anonymous.
"Let's bring the sunshine in," Blackburn offered. "Let's bring some transparency and accountability."
"These have been personal bailouts," she added. "Let's end this."
It's a bipartisan effort, with Rep. Tulsi Gubbard (D-HI) one of the Democrats on board.
“Enough is enough,” Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “For far too long sexual predators have roamed freely through the halls of Congress -- the people’s house -- while survivors of sexual harassment and assault have essentially been isolated, bullied and shamed into silence.”
In addition to unmasking the lawmakers who used the hush fund, the bipartisan bill will mandate that taxpayers get their money back - "with interest," says Blackburn.
Lawmakers are introducing other pieces of legislation intended to combat a culture of sexual abuse on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, Congress passed a bill requiring members to participate in anti-harassment training.