WASHINGTON, D.C. — An amendment offered by Sen. Al Franken that would withhold defense contracts from contractors if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court has been included in the final Defense Department appropriations bill, which is scheduled for a floor vote in the House today.
The measure was prompted by the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a former Halliburton/KBR employee who has alleged that she was raped by several co-workers while working in Iraq in 2005. Jones told reporters in October, after the amendment passed in the Senate, that its adoption “means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it.”
“Jamie Leigh Jones is a strong, courageous woman, who used her own horrific experience to inspire change. I am honored to know her, and honored to have been a part of her cause,” Franken said today.
If the Defense appropriations bill is approved as expected, the inclusion would be a major win for Franken, given the political firestorm that erupted shortly after the amendment passed in the Senate. Several of the Republicans who voted against the measure were angrily confronted by activists who accused them of being “pro-rape.” They, in turn, directed their ire at Franken, accusing him of not doing enough to shield them from such accusations (though Franken has said repeatedly he thinks characterizations of GOP senators as “pro-rape” are unfair).
Two conditions were placed on the measure. The first would restrict the policy to just contracts in excess of $1 million — a vast majority of them. The second is a waiver for national security purposes that is anything but standard. National security waivers are often invoked for anything under the sun at the Defense Department, which by virtue of its mission deals with matters of national security all the time.
This waiver, however, requires the secretary of Defense to personally approve the waiver, then submit a report on why he or she made that call to Congress — along with all the alternative plans considered in lieu of a waiver that were ultimately rejected.
The entire bill can be read here. The Jamie Leigh Jones amendment is Sec. 8116 on pages 113-115.