WASHINGTON — Some Democratic House members are planning to invite victims of sexual assault to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address later this month to highlight the issue, according to an aide to a lawmaker who has been a prominent voice on sexual misconduct.
“Some members will be bringing survivors of sexual assault and advocates as their guests,” the aide to Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., a leader of the Democratic Women’s Working Group in the House, told NBC News.
Party leaders generally don’t dictate who rank-and-file members can invite with the one guest ticket each lawmaker is given. And there’s still some uncertainty within Democratic ranks over where to draw the line between addressing sexual misconduct and turning the topic into a partisan political war.
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pressured Frankel not to hold mock hearings with women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, an idea the Florida Democrat had floated at a private Democratic Steering and Policy Committee meeting Monday night.
Pelosi told Frankel and other Democrats that such a “hearing” — only official committees, which are run by Republicans, can hold hearings — would distract from a focus on victims across the country and on developing bipartisan efforts to craft legislation on sexual assault and harassment issues, according to two sources who were in the room.
Frankel, who is holding a series of sessions on sexual assault under the auspices of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, has since backed down.
“The consensus of the Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Frankel’s strong belief as well, is to focus these hearings on women across all industries — from workers on factory floors to hotel rooms to restaurant kitchens,” the Frankel aide said Wednesday night. “Rep. Frankel is hopeful they will be productive and is working to make them a bipartisan effort.”
Already, members of the women’s working group are planning to wear black to the State of the Union on Jan. 30 to show their solidarity with victims of sexual assault.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who is working on a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen sexual misconduct prevention standards in the House, told NBC News that she is encouraging women and men of both parties to join the demonstration.
“This is a culture change that is sweeping the country, and Congress is embracing it,” she said.