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Blackburn, Cooper offer bipartisan bill aimed at sexual harrassment claims


WASHINGTON, DC  (WMOT/AP)  --  The seemingly endless stream of sexual harassment claims roiling the nation are prompting a rare show of unity inside the Tennessee Congressional delegation.

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper are cosponsoring a bill that would make public the names of House members who have been the subject of sexual harassment claims.

Many such claims are settled through the Congressional Office of Compliance. The obscure department says over the last 20 years it's used taxpayer dollars to pay some 260 claims valued at more than 17 million taxpayer dollars.

To receive a settlement, victims are required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Cooper and Blackburn yesterday joined three other House members in filing legislation that would end the practice. Calling the payments a “hush fund” Blackburn says it’s time for greater accountability.

“Let’s bring transparency and openness to this process. Let’s end these personal bailouts."

For his part, Nashville’s Jim Cooper noted the bill does two things.

“One, it stops the mistreatment of the American tax payer who pay for these hush fund settlements. Number Two, it opens up those settlements so that we know who did it, when and the details.”

Cooper says the bill would also force the Office of Compliance to disclose all past agreements, place those details on its website, and eliminate the non-disclosure clauses.

Under pressure to respond to the growing list of sexual misconduct allegations, the House on Wednesday passed a measure requiring all members to take annual anti-harassment training.