Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) offered an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts to companies who prevent victims from filing lawsuits against sexual assault and harassment.
Franken proposed the amendment after hearing the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, who alleges that she was brutally raped while working a contractor for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq.
But Jones was unable to press charges in court because her defense contract stipulated that any such allegations can only be heard in private arbitration.
Franken’s amendment, which passed 68-30, received the support of 10 Republican senators. However, most Republicans opposed the amendment because it went against the wishes of the Defense Department, and argued it gave Congress too much influence in altering defense contracts.
Those concerns, however, are immaterial to Democratic strategists, who believe the vote will be politically costly to the two Republican senators facing competitive races – Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pounced after the vote, putting out a statement attacking Vitter “for choosing special interests over justice and the interests of the American taxpayers.”
Republicans point out that the amendment was opposed by a host of business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and applies to a wide range of companies, including IBM and Boeing.
“This misleading, partisan attack makes clear yet again just how out of touch Democrats in Washington are with the serious issues facing average Americans,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.
From THINK PROGRESS:
In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. In an apparent attempt to cover up the incident, the company then put her in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” Even more insultingly, the DOJ resisted bringing any criminal charges in the matter. KBR argued that Jones’ employment contract warranted her claims being heard in private arbitration — without jury, judge, public record, or transcript of the proceedings. After 15 months in arbitration, Jones and her lawyers went to court to fight the KBR claims. Yesterday, a court ruled in favor of Jones.”
From THE HUFFINGTON POST:
I think that all homo sapiens can understand how the mere thought of an organization that receives government money through contract mechanisms being tangentially involved in setting up a fake tax shelter for a fake pimp and his fake prostitution ring of fake prostitutes [ACORN] can justifiably lead to lawmakers going absolutely cross-eyed with white-hot, impotent rage. But what happens when a similarly taxpayer-endowed contractor attempts to cover up employee-on-employee gang rape by locking up the victim in a shipping container without food and water and threatening her with reprisals if she report the incident? Somehow, it doesn’t engender the same level of anger!
Credit new Senator Al Franken however, for introducing an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would punish contractors if they “restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.” You’d think that this would be a no-brainer, actually, but that didn’t stop Jeff Sessions from labeling Franken’s effort a “political attack directed at Halliburton.” Franken, of course, pointed out that his amendment would apply broadly, to all contractors [...]
Franken’s amendment ended up passing, 68-30. Here’s a list of the Senators who [voted] against it:
That means these are the 10 who voted for the amendment: