Congress faces pressure to come clean on sex harassment payouts

Both Democrat and Republican politicians on Sunday called for increased transparency on how lawmakers handled allegations of sexual misconduct in the past.

There is a bipartisan effort to pass legislation that would require all sexual harassment claims to be handled in the public, The New York Times reported. It is unclear if the legislation would expose payouts in the past. 

Some politicians are in favor of exposing these older cases, while others warn of potential issues with victims who've had no interest of going public with their claims.

“I think it should be more transparent,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told NBC's “Meet the Press.” “I certainly think that if you accept taxpayer funds for settlement, that should be transparent.”

The call comes amid recent allegations against two high-profile politicians: Michigan Rep. John Conyers and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

Conyers is under investigation over allegations he sexually harassed female staff members. He said Sunday that he will step aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while fiercely denying he acted inappropriately during his long tenure in Congress.

Denying the allegations, Conyers, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who was first elected to the House in 1964, urged lawmakers to allow him “due process.”

“I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family,” Conyers said.

Franken broke his silence Sunday after being swept into a nationwide tide of sexual harassment allegations, saying he feels "embarrassed and ashamed," but looks forward to returning to work on Monday and gradually regaining voters' trust.

Three women allege that Franken grabbed their buttocks while taking photos with them during campaign events. Franken told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he doesn't remember the photographs but that such behavior is "not something I would intentionally do."

Asked whether he expected any other women to step forward with similar allegations, Franken said: "If you had asked me two weeks ago, 'Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?' I would have said no. So this has just caught me by surprise ... I certainly hope not."

The Times reported Sunday that the House is expected to adopt a resolution that all representatives and their staffs must take anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training. 

Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.