December 13, 2017 / 2:24 PM / in 7 months

U.S. House to stop using public funds for harassment settlements: speaker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Wednesday that Congress was working on a package of reforms that would prohibit using taxpayer money for settlements in sexual harassment claims lodged against lawmakers’ offices.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a news conference with other House Republican leaders following a closed conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

“That’s among the things we’re working on right now,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an interview with Wisconsin radio station WISN a week after three lawmakers said they were stepping down after sexual harassment or misconduct claims.A wave of sexual misconduct allegations has emerged in recent weeks against high-profile figures in journalism, entertainment and politics.

Democratic Representative John Conyers resigned after reports he had used public funds to settle a woman’s claim. Conyers acknowledged his office had settled with a former staffer over harassment allegations, but denied wrongdoing.

The congressional office that handles employment disputes also said it had paid settlements on two claims involving sex discrimination allegations and one sexual harassment accusation since 2013.

Politico reported that the sexual harassment settlement, which amounted to $84,000, was made on behalf of Texas Republican Representative Blake Farenthold. In a statement after he reached a settlement agreement in 2015, Farenthold denied engaging in any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Andrew Hay

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