Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) revealed Tuesday on MSNBC, that more than $15 million in taxpayer funds has been used to settle sexual harassment lawsuits filed against members of Congress.
That number, Speier told host Chuck Todd, represents only what the House of Representatives has paid out over the last decade. She left open the possibility that taxpayers were on the hook for much more.
"We do know there is about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years," Sepier revealed.
Speier told a Congressional committee earlier in the day that two current members of Congress — one Republican and one Democrat — are among the legislators targeted in the sexual harassment suits. She declined to name the two members. She told the House Administration Committee that it was not immediately clear whether either member was subject to an internal review process.
Speier herself also claims to have been a victim of sexual harassment when she was a legislative staffer.
As far as the cases involving current members of Congress, Speier says she cannot reveal details of the sexual harassment claims, but said that at least one House staffer complained of "having their private parts grabbed on the House floor."
Identifying details remain subject to a non-disclosure agreement, and Speier told Todd that she has no intention of naming Congressional abusers if it means the victims will face consequences — but she will work to ensure any future cases aren't placed under lock and key.
“Well, it is my responsibility to address the seriousness of this issue. These survivors are subject to a non-disclosure agreement. I’m not going to violate their non-disclosure agreement,” Speier told Todd. “I think moving forward we have got to take steps to make sure that there is transparency. That in fact, the harasser is not going to have the settlement paid for out of the U.S. Treasury and have all the taxpayers paying for it. It should be something that is paid for by the individual.”
Rep. Speier, along with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), are engaged in a bipartisan effort to combat sexual harassment on the floor of Congress. Schumer has suggested mandatory sexual harassment training for all members and their staffs. Speier is championing a bill in the House that would reform and streamline sexual harassment reporting for legislative staffers.
She also told Todd that taxpayers absolutely have a right to know if their money is being used to cover for alleged sexual harassers. “Well, I think you do have the right to know. But right now, under the system, you don’t have a right to know,” she said.