Rep. Costello Discusses Importance of ME TOO Congress Act on Fox News: Things Need to Change, This Legislation Is a Step in the Right Direction
West Chester, PA – Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) joined Fox News last night to discuss the ME TOO Congress Act. The legislation would bring clarity to the reporting and investigative processes, extend protections to interns and fellows, provide protections for whistleblowers in Congress that are similar to those offered to whistleblowers in the Executive Branch, and require sexual harassment training for Congressional offices, which includes both Members and staff. In addition to requiring any settlements to be paid for by the Member of Congress personally – not with taxpayer funding – the legislation would also require the name of the employing Congressional office and the amount of the settlement to be made public on the Office of Compliance (OOC) website within a certain timeframe.
Click here to view the segment and see below for key takeaways from Rep. Costello.
Key takeaways from Rep. Costello:
- “The short answer is things do need to change. I think that this legislation is a step in the right direction because if you work on Capitol Hill and you’ve been mistreated, the process that you have to go through in order to file a complaint and have your grievance heard is so opaque, confusing, that it’s just not fair. It’s not fair and it’s not right.”
On provisions of the legislation:
- “The legislation that I have would remove the mandatory counseling. It would also make a Member of Congress personally liable if they engaged in this type of behavior.”
- “The name of the Member of Congress or if it were someone on their staff would be included – that would have to be reported within 60 days of the end of the year.”
Laura Ingraham, host: Professor, let’s talk to you. This is some wild stuff. I mean we have had a cavalcade of accusations, some more recent than others, some really old – sweep both Hollywood, business, media, and politics. What is your take on this Conyers issue, now that we know he used his own budget, his office budget, to pay some of these settlements?
Professor Kimberly Wehle, guest: Well one thing that’s been striking to me is the fact that our elected officials seem to be less accountable than those in the private sector, right? So we’ve seen it sweep through Hollywood, we’ve seen it happen in the halls of corporate America and the retribution is swift, and the people are moved out and new people are moved in presumably, and the notion is that there’s money at stake, right. And so, when it comes to our elected officials, without a will to actually remove them from office, from the voter’s standpoint, there’s really not much that we can do. The Constitution doesn’t say much about it.
Laura Ingraham: Congressman Costello, to you on this, this is what Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Waters, said not too long ago about Congressman Conyers, it was a big woman’s forum [clip plays] … Impeccable integrity. Congressman Costello, you heard the professor that look Congress [inaudible] used to have its own set of rules, that’s how it’s constituted, they govern themselves, they pass their own ethics rules, internal rules and regulations, but is it time that things begin to change? I mean a lot of you guys didn’t even know this slush-shush fund even existed.
Rep. Costello: The short answer is things do need to change. I think that this legislation is a step in the right direction because if you work on Capitol Hill and you’ve been mistreated, the process that you have to go through in order to file a complaint and have your grievance heard is so opaque, confusing, that it’s just not fair. It’s not fair and it’s not right. And I think the slush fund that you spoke to is sort of indicative of the American public’s frustration with, at times, how Congress is governed. They feel that there’s a different set of rules for Members of Congress, and the point here is look, as a Member of Congress I have a budget, I pay staff, office supplies, office space, etc, etc. that money should not and cannot be allowed for use to pay off an employee who may have been mistreated. That has to end. I don’t’ think that that’s permitted anyway--
Laura Ingraham: Is that even allowed? Congressman, my question to you is, is that even allowed?
Rep. Costello: I don’t believe that it is, no.
Laura Ingraham: Okay so this will be part of an ongoing ethics investigation into John Conyers. I want you to speak to my angle that I gave at the top of the show. We’ve got people in Congress who have been there half a century plus. Now, [inaudible] old people, senior people, they’re all getting up there. They have a lot of wisdom. But this was not meant to be a permanent job security program working on Capitol Hill. But we’ve got people up here for three decades, four decades, and in the case of John Conyers, five decades. You kind of get removed from the people after five decades. You go from [inaudible] to fundraiser to lobbyist to consultant, to this and that, and the people are – where the heck are the people in all of that?
Rep. Costello: That’s going to be up to the voters. Unless we have term limits, I mean look the reality is that fund, some of that may have been sexual discrimination claims, a lot of that was workplace violations, some of it could have been age discrimination, right? So there’s a couple different ways to look at that, but I understand the sense of the American people is sometimes Members of Congress are there too long. Obviously it’s up to the constituents in their district to vote them out if they don’t want them there, but we’re dealing here with a situation when improper conduct does occur, are the mechanisms in place in order to right the situation, to treat a young woman who may have been mistreated, and I think that there’s a feeling that the mechanisms that are in place now are insufficient.
Laura Ingraham: Congressman, you seem like a nice guy, and I’m sure you represent your constituents very well, but as the professor’s pointing out, you can’t get away with this stuff in corporate America anymore. At least you shouldn’t. And the fact that women are forced into mandatory counseling – and professor I want you to get into that. This is the way the system is now on Capitol Hill. Women who accuse, or men, who accuse others of sexual misconduct other misconduct, have to go into forced counseling. Mandatory --
Rep. Costello: For 30 days – and then there’s 30 days of mediation.
Laura Ingraham: The counseling should go the other way.
Rep. Costello: I agree with you.
Laura Ingraham: Yeah, the counseling should go to the people who are doing the misconduct. Professor, I want you to weigh in.
Professor Wehle: Under the constitution the way you get rid of Members of Congress is--
Laura Ingraham: You vote them out
Professor Wehle: Well or, under Article I, you can – other Members of the Senate, in the Senate context, can actually expel them.
Laura Ingraham: Well that’s what they’re talking about with Roy Moore.
Professor Wehle: It takes two thirds of the Senate to make that decision and so we’re talking big numbers, it’s highly unlikely, and so what then applies. What applies are the rules that Congress decides to apply to themselves.
Rep. Costello: And I want to strengthen the rules.
Laura Ingraham: But Congressman, I know you didn’t write the rules, Grassley did back in ’95, and I like Senator Grassley. I think he’s done a phenomenal job on most issues, but are you going to say tonight that you will fight for removal of mandatory counseling and a confidentiality provision in any future legislation? Because I see there are different versions of this floating around Capitol Hill.
Rep. Costello: The legislation that I have would remove the mandatory counseling. It would also make a Member of Congress personally liable if they engaged in this type of behavior.
Laura Ingraham: What about the names? What about the names? You guys get to keep secrets or do we know who you are? Not you, but you know what I’m saying.
Rep. Costello: The name of the Member of Congress or if it were someone on their staff would be included – that would have to be reported within 60 days of the end of the year. There would also be a survey done every year so that you have staff conveying what they feel the culture is on Capitol Hill.
Laura Ingraham: Okay, so some accountability.
Rep. Costello: So, there’s a lot to this bill. I totally agree with what the Professor says. Things need to change. The bill I’m a part of would do that.
Laura Ingraham: And Congressman Costello is a change agent in this. So, I don’t mean to come down on you on this. But I still can’t believe this ever existed on Capitol Hill, it is preposterous on both sides – men can be victims, women can be victims. Men can be victims of false accusations – and we must say that – there are false accusations. And women can be victims, men can be victims, both can be. Both can be, but I’m glad this is going to change.