The House passed legislation on Tuesday, reforming the way sexual harassment claims are handled on Capitol Hill and assuring that taxpayers are not footing the bill for a member’s inappropriate behavior.

As an amendment to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, a provision in the new legislation requires members of Congress — found guilty of harassment — reimburse the U.S. Treasury for settlement claims paid to victims.

Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, and Pete Olson, R-TX, co-authored the provision.

"Taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for lawmakers' inappropriate behavior," said Congresswoman Stefanik. "Our provision in this bill addresses the recent and shocking reports of abuse by some on Capitol Hill, and it protects hard earned taxpayer dollars.”

Stefanik is referring to large previously undisclosed payments to victims.

According to the Congressional Office of Compliance, settlements for all harassment, including sexual harassment, topped $17 million from 1997 to 2017.

In 1997, there were six claims with $39,429 in settlements; 1998, 16 claims, $103,180; 1999, six claims, $72,350; 2000, 15 claims, $45,638; 2001, seven claims, $121,400;  2002, 10  claims,$3,974,077; 2003, 11 claims, $720,071; 2004, 15 claims,$388,209; 2005, 14 claims, $909,872; 2006, 18 claims, $849,529; 2007, 25 claims, $4,053,274; 2008, 10 claims, $875,317; 2009, 13 claims, $831,360; 2010, nine claims, $246,271; 2011, 16 claims, $437,465; 2012, 12 claims, $426,539; 2013, 14 claims, $334,823; 2014, 11 claims, $806,450; 2015, 13 claims, $482,797; 2016, 15 claims, $588,049; and 2017, eight claims, $934,754.

If the member does not reimburse the treasury, their pension will be used to pay back the funds.

Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli is a features writer at The Post-Star. She can be reached at kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com for comments or story ideas. 

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