Democratic male senators push to advance sexual harassment legislation

Democratic male senators push to advance sexual harassment legislation

(CNN) – Thirty-one Democratic male senators have sent a letter to Senate leaders calling on them to move on sexual harassment legislation that would overhaul how claims are handled on Capitol Hill.

“If we fail to act immediately to address the systemic problem in our own workplace, we will lose all credibility in the eyes of the American public regarding our capacity to protect victims of sexual harassment or discrimination in any setting,” said the letter, sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

The effort, organized by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, received the support of every male Democratic senator, minus Schumer, a recipient of the letter.

But notably the letter failed to get a single Republican senator to sign on, despite what Democratic congressional aides say was an effort to make it bipartisan.

A Democratic congressional aide tells CNN they were expecting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the cosponsors of the legislation, to sign on to the letter — but he changed his mind and did not in the end.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Cruz, disputed that account.

“We had been working with Sen. Merkley’s office throughout the crafting process of the letter and expected we would be on it when released,” Frazier told CNN. “Cruz appreciates Sen. Merkley’s efforts to urge a vote on Gillibrand-Cruz, and he told Sen. Merkley last week he’d be more than happy to sign a letter. In fact, Sen. Cruz has personally urged GOP leadership to mark up Gillibrand-Cruz, and he is working to get additional senators to sign the letter in support of the legislation.”

Last month, all 22 female senators — from both parties — wrote their own letter to Senate leadership expressing their disappointment in the Senate’s “inaction” in moving sexual harassment legislation forward.

The push for the legislation comes as there is stalled momentum on Capitol Hill in passing the measure after it was not included in the omnibus spending bill last month.

The House passed its version of the legislation in February.

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