More than 100 days into the 116th Congress, House members and staffers are yet to take anti-harassment training, a key reform rolled out as part of lawmakers' response to a slew of #MeToo allegations made on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., a member of the House Administration Committee charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations of the chamber, including workplace rights and responsibilities education, on Monday will send a letter to Democrats on the panel demanding to know what's behind the holdup.
The anti-harassment and anti-discrimination program, along with modules on cybersecurity safety and ethics, comprise the compulsory training all members, aides, and employees of the House of Representatives must complete every year since the House agreed in November 2017 to regulations mandating it be taken within certain time frames. However, the House has to bind itself to the curriculum of each new Congress through a resolution usually passed by unanimous consent.
"I think the House Administration Committee is just resembling what's being done in the Democratic House leadership across the board. One hundred days of disappointment, I would add my own 100 days of dysfunction if you look at the different things," Walker told the Washington Examiner.
"The 100 days of disappointment is a catchy buzzword, but this dysfunctionality is legitimate and I think this is just another area where we're seeing it play out," said Walker, who previously led the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of more than 100 conservative members. "I would just like to know where does it stand? Give us an update, how's it coming along? But we're getting no information on this."
Walker's move provides House Republicans with the opportunity to lead on the politically fraught issue. It is also wrapped up in a broader push by House Republicans, now mired in the minority, to paint majority Democrats as incompetent or duplicitous in keeping promises during their first 100 days in power and beyond.
"I think it's more about what's right and what's wrong issue more than anything else," Walker said. "This is not something that I'm looking for a win," he said. "I'm serious about this."
Walker added, "This is the United States House of Representatives. We ought to be able to get our act together and get this resolved."
Peter Whippy, a spokesman for Democrats on the House Administration Committee, told the Washington Examiner a resolution was introduced on Jan. 8 by Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., on behalf of her and ranking member Rodney Davis, R-Ill. But a vote has been delayed as the majority side of the panel reviews the syllabus offered by an outside third party.
"After receiving member and staff feedback regarding the workforce rights training held during the 115th Congress, the committee has been working in consultation with the House’s designated vendor to update the training curriculum and presentation," Whippy said. "H.Res. 30, a resolution to require members to complete a training program on workplace rights and responsibilities has been introduced and will be considered shortly, after which workplace rights trainings will commence in a matter of weeks."
"The committee is working every week with the vendor to improve the curriculum based on member and staff feedback," he added. "There’s no sense in taking training for the sake of training, it should be effective and meaningful, which has been a prime Committee focus since the first day of Congress."
Another House Administration panel aide told the Washington Examiner that until H.Res. 30 is passed, "there is currently no existing training requirement."
The committee has had a heavy workload since the start of 2019, collaborating with House Democratic leadership to clear H.R. 1, the For The People Act, a political reforms package.
Congress was rocked in 2017 when female House members testified that they were aware of at least three sitting lawmakers guilty of sexual misconduct and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., either resigned or did not seek reelection due to revelations of alleged sexual misdeeds. Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination education was among the first initiatives introduced in reaction to the controversies.
The provision of compulsory training preceded the passage in December last year of sweeping changes to the Congressional Accountability Act. The amendments, negotiated between the House and the Senate, streamlined the process to lodge complaints, granted the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights more authority to investigate internal concerns, and implemented public reporting obligations.