BOSTON (CBS) – Why did Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-New York) walk out on Wednesday’s House Democratic caucus called to discuss a flurry of sexual harassment charges against members of Congress?
“I for one am not going to stand silent even in the face of pressure from leadership not to,” she says. “You see the actions that CBS, NBC take when there are allegations against very well-known men in positions of power, and we don’t do the same, and I think it’s a disgrace.”
Rep. Rice has a point. Over the past two decades, Congress has paid out more than $17 million to resolve workplace disputes including sexual harassment cases. But the process is onerous, and all the relevant details are hidden from public view.
“The present system may have been OK in the dark ages, it is not appropriate for the 21st century,” says Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California).
But to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), when the accused is a veteran colleague and ally like Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), “zero tolerance” means a slow walk.
“He will do the right thing in terms of what he knows about his situation,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday.
And that attitude is what sent Rep. Rice fleeing in disgust from Pelosi’s caucus.
“Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room and that’s why I was done with the meeting,” she says. “I don’t have time for conversations that are not real.”
Rep. Rice wants to see an end to the rule forcing complainants against members of Congress to sign non-disclosure agreements that bar them from talking about their stories, while the accused members are free to talk.