Likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with President Trump this morning and issues such as immigration and infrastructure, among others will be up for discussion. But when she takes the gavel next month there will be only one priority for her, and if she whiffs on it her speakership will lose authority and credibility for the rest of her term.
Literally a year ago — as the #MeToo era was erupting — the nation was waking up to news that a secret congressional “hush fund” had been used by Members of Congress to pay off accusers of sexual misconduct. Taxpayer money — yours and mine — was used to pay off these alleged victims.
Many members of Congress, in both parties, pontificated and expressed outrage. Congressman Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced a bill that called for publicizing the names of those who used the hush fund to pay for these so-called “settlements.” Many in both parties co-sponsored his bill but it went nowhere and now DeSantis is gone, about to become the next governor of Florida.
Such inaction is a stain on outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan’s legacy. If incoming Speaker Pelosi does the same, it could ruin her.
If Pelosi doesn’t move immediately to disclose the names of those in Congress who used this hush fund, she will be part of the biggest sexual misconduct scandal in history. Nobody knows how many congressman and Senators are involved, and if she is a willing participant to keep all of this a secret she will forfeit credibility on every other issue.
What we know already is devastating. We know congressmen John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Blake Fahrentold (R-Tex.) used this “hush fund” to settle with alleged victims. Both men have already left Congress.
Pelosi has been as outspoken as any leader in the Democratic Party, as any feminist leader and as any celebrity when it comes protecting women from male predators. She will now have the power to take meaningful and lasting action but she said nothing about the issue during the last few months of the campaign, and has said nothing about it since the election.
Nor have we heard a word from any of the newly elected incoming Democratic freshman congressional class — many of whom are women — since the election. The same goes for the women leaders who plan to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
So far all we’ve heard and seen from congressional leaders in both parties has been lip service about training going forward. The truth is what will actually put a stop to male predators in Congress will be publicizing the names of those for whom the public paid to protect.
A woman Speaker, and her party by extension, cannot be part of an old boys club/incumbent protection scandal.
A woman Speaker who continues to sweep this scandal under the rug, and her party by extension — the party of which she’s has been a leader for many years — would render themselves a disgrace in the eyes of the American people.
A version of this oped was published by USA Today.