Representative John Conyers Jr.’s stature as the longest serving African-American man in House history was not enough to protect him from a concerted push for his resignation after several aides accused him of harassment.
Mr. Conyers, 88, who last week stepped aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, planned to announce on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election, according to a family member who wants to run for the congressman’s seat.
“He is not resigning,” Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said of his great-uncle. “He is going to retire.”
Yet Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, has avoided Senate calls for his resignation, perhaps showing that the power of a Senate seat is just not comparable to the relative weakness of a single House seat. Despite at least six women accusing him of groping them, he may ride out the scandal.
And then there is Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama accused of making improper advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s, including an allegation of sexual assault and another of pedophilia. President Trump endorsed Mr. Moore’s campaign on Monday. And after a desperate effort to block Mr. Moore’s path to the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, backed off his condemnations on Sunday and said the candidate’s fate was up to Alabama voters.
Democrats, especially in the House, say tolerance is breaking down along party lines — and their party is far less tolerant.
“We can’t have a double standard,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, referring to Mr. Farenthold. “He settled for $84,000; it’s a lot of money, that’s not for nothing. I think he should step down according to the same standards that Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan set for John Conyers.”
Polls have shown that Democrats are far more critical of sexual harassment within their own ranks than Republicans are of harassment within theirs. Only 40 percent of Republicans who participated in a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll thought sexual harassment was a very or somewhat serious problem within their party, while 60 percent of Democrats said it was a problem among themselves.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Administration will hold its second hearing on how to overhaul a 1995 law, the Congressional Accountability Act, that created the current system for reporting and adjudicating sexual harassment claims — a system that advocates for victims say is far more burdensome and secretive than those in the private sector.
Representative Gregg Harper, Republican of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, called the review “long overdue.”
Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the committee, says a cultural shift — as much as a legal one — is in order.
“It used to be that lobbyists were showering gifts upon members of Congress, and we just banned it, and it radically changed the culture,” he said. “We simply have to radically change the culture of sexual harassment.”
Rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties agree there should be a “zero tolerance” policy toward members found guilty of sexual harassment. But in interviews, lawmakers seemed to wrestle with the correct response to individual cases; many said they did not know enough to judge. As prominent men in other professions — notably news media and the entertainment industry — are quickly forced out of their jobs when accused of improprieties, there is growing pressure on Congressional leaders to hold lawmakers to the same strict standard.
“We are all struggling to know what to do,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “These are all elected officials; they don’t work for anybody other than the people that voted for them, and you want to be careful not to disenfranchise the voters.”
Emily Martin, the general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center, says there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and added that it is important to distinguish between gradations of improper behavior. That could be one reason Mr. Franken has avoided calls to step down, while Mr. Conyers and Mr. Kihuen have not.
Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus see bias in the way Mr. Conyers, a founding member of the group, has been treated compared with Mr. Franken. But Mr. Conyers is accused of demanding sex from an employee, then firing her for refusing — a clear case of workplace sexual harassment. Mr. Franken is accused of groping women mainly as he posed for photographs, and of forcibly kissing a woman before he was a senator.
“I do think it’s important to recognize that there are degrees of severity,” Ms. Martin said. “A zero-tolerance, one-size-fits-all policy sounds really attractive. But it is in the end potentially harmful to say that we are going to ignore differences in situations that are in fact very different.”
The accusations against Mr. Farenthold have been public for several years; what was not known until Friday was that the taxpayers financed an out-of-court settlement against him. In a lawsuit filed in 2014, his former communications director, Lauren Greene, accused the congressman of regularly making comments to gauge her interest in a sexual relationship, including saying he was having “sexual fantasies” about her. When she complained about a hostile work environment, the lawsuit said, she was fired.
The case was referred to the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics, which reviewed it to determine whether the House Ethics Committee should take up the matter. A six-member board voted unanimously to recommend that the committee dismiss the matter, after concluding that “there is not substantial reason” to believe that Mr. Farenthold either harassed or discriminated against Ms. Greene.
However, the committee went ahead with an investigation, which was pending as of Jan. 2, according to a report filed with the House.
Details of the $84,000 settlement emerged Friday as part of an extensive review of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional offices being conducted by the Committee on House Administration.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, AshLee Strong, said in a statement on Friday that the speaker had addressed the matter with the congressman, and had “made clear any report of sexual harassment is deeply troubling, and those who feel mistreated or violated deserve to have their stories taken seriously.”
The statement did not address Mr. Farenthold’s future; several Republican lawmakers, including Mr. Cole of Oklahoma and Representative Peter T. King of New York, said they expect it will be the topic of discussion when House Republicans convene Tuesday for their weekly conference meeting.
“I would want to see more details, but to me, it’s difficult to stay in Congress with something that serious, but I don’t want to prejudge it,” Mr. King said, adding, “I would say the burden is on him to prove he should stay.”
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