In 1993, the office that staffer Tara Reade would have complained to about alleged sexual harassment by then-Senator Joe Biden was the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices.
But as it turns out, that Office might not have existed to address any complaints, if Joe Biden had his way.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, in 1991, Biden voted in favor of a motion blocking the creation of the office that would receive sexual harassment complaints.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was trying to create the office as part of an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to address the claims that Congress was exempt from workplace discrimination laws. It was to create “procedures to protect the right of Senate and other government employees … to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.” Incredible that they were excepted from the rules that every other business entity would have to apply.
Sen. Warren Rudman (R-NH) led the opposition to the amendment making a point of order, calling it unconstitutional and warning that “everyone here will be in jeopardy and we will have done much violence to this body and the Constitution.” He was joined by six Democrats to block the office, including Biden.
The amendment passed on a voice vote and the Office was created. The Biden campaign acknowledged that he “voted for the point of order on an amendment” but claimed that Biden co-sponsored the Violence against Women Act in 1994 showing his championing of women.
Biden did not explain his vote during the vigorous debate surrounding the passage of the Grassley amendment, the Congressional Record shows. Because it passed by voice vote, Biden’s final position is unclear. He, along with others who opposed the creation of the Office of Fair Employment Practices—including Rudman, Cohen, and, Thurmond—voted in favor of the larger legislative package, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin.
The Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices was replaced by the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights in 1995, but Grassley’s 1991 amendment serves as the legislative backbone for the current office.
The day after the point of order failed, Rudman launched a second attempt to derail the creation of the office by introducing an amendment that required senators to pay settlements out of their own pockets. When Grassley and his allies attempted to table the amendment, Biden again voted with Rudman. That amendment survived the tabling motion in a 75-22 vote and was later adopted by voice vote. Biden also voted against an amendment to the Civil Rights Act that would have allowed Senate staffers to sue for damages in a jury trial. The measure failed 54-42.
What’s still pretty incredible even beyond Biden is that even after reporting about taxpayer money being used to settle claims of sexual harassment by members of Congress and then those settlements were hushed up, we still have not been accorded access to that information and who those settlements have been made over.