Harassment bill long overdue and shamefully needed

We are appreciative that U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, a Cogan Station Republican who represents much of our region, has introduced legislation to prohibit taxpayer funds from being used to pay settlements involving federal lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct.

But the entire Congress should be ashamed that such legislation is even necessary.

In what universe is it acceptable for Congress to have a taxpayer-funded account in the millions of dollars that can be used to pay settlements for complaints involving elected officials?

And as the list of public officials embroiled in sexual harassment complaints grows – seemingly by the day – the knowledge that taxpayer money has been used for years to settle such complaints should provoke across-the-board anger.

This is not an issue that fits into or outside of a Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative platform. Sexual harassment is wrong and those who commit it should have to fend for themselves when it’s time to pay for their defense or any form of punishment, monetary, penal or otherwise.

The only nuance to these actions is whether they involved two consenting adults, which is an entirely different matter than sexual harassment or sexual assault. Those situations, while plenty distasteful, are a matter for the consciences of two adult individuals.

But the cases against Michigan Rep. John Conyers, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and Texas Rep. Joe Barton don’t involve consent. They involve details that would get anyone in the private sector dismissed immediately.

And we suspect taxpaying Americans are not interested in the turtle-pace review of an ethics committee to handle such matters. They also don’t need to hear Conyers defended as “an icon” by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday morning talk shows. Pelosi reversed field a few days later and called on Conyers to step down. We hope that is a sign that tolerance of sexual harassment has seized being politically dependent.

The country is going through an ugly yet necessary airing of the sexual harassment laundry, with the media and entertainment industries also being exposed for despicable allegations of such behavior. Where government institutions are concerned, taxpayers at least ought to be able to count on their money not being used for bailout payments. The legislation is long overdue and shamefully necessary.