As new allegations of sexual harassment surface on Capitol Hill, the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to take its first step to try to stop the misconduct in the future.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., is taking a leading role in pushing for more reforms. While her Democratic critics have often complained she sidesteps controversial issues, Comstock has stepped squarely into the spotlight on the issue of sexual harassment, saying she won’t rest until "we take out all the trash” on Capitol Hill.
Comstock shared what a victim had disclosed to one of Comstock's friends.
“This member asked a staffer to bring him over some materials to their residence and was greeted by the member in a towel,” Comstock told a House committee on Nov. 14. “It was a man, who then invited her in. At that point, he decided to expose himself.”
Since then, Comstock has been leading the way in a bi-partisan push for reform, going on national shows like “Meet the Press,” to talk about the uncomfortable issue that faces Congress.
“I think this is a watershed moment where we really are going to fundamentally change things,” Comstock said. “It’s important that whatever bad apples are here, they move along.”
On Wednesday, the House takes up a resolution co-sponsored by Comstock that mandates all interns, staff, and members undergo mandatory training aimed at preventing sexual harassment and discrimination. Comstock said she won't stop there. She wants major reforms in the office that's helped negotiate secret sexual harassment settlements.
As a Republican in a swing district that's turning increasingly blue, Comstock is preparing for a tough re-election battle next year. She rejected the suggestion from critics who said she's seizing the spotlight for political gain.
Political analyst Mark Rozell said her high profile on this issue could help her in 2018.
“It is an important moment, politically, for her, and it does enable her to showcase herself as being able to take a position right on an issue that may harm some members of her own party, ultimately,” Rozell said.
Comstock said she doesn't know the identity of the House member in the towel who exposed himself to the staffer. However, she did let her friend know that if the victim wants to come forward to tell her story, she stands ready to help.