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Will Blake Farenthold reimburse taxpayers for $84K harassment settlement?

Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican who was under congressional investigation for sexual harassment allegations, resigned abruptly from Congress on Friday afternoon. Now, the question still remains: will he repay the $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle a sexual harassment claim from one of his former female staffers, as he said he would?

In December, Farenthold, who had already said he would not run for reelection this year, pledged to repay the $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle with Lauren Greene, a former aide of his who alleged he sexually harassed her. Greene sued the congressman in 2014 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. 

"I'm doing my best and am going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan or somebody and say look here's the amount of my settlement, give it back to the taxpayers," Farenthold, who has continued to deny the allegations against him, said in December.

That was four months ago. Since then, there has been no public indication — or even claim from Farenthold — that he has done so. Shortly after Farenthold announced his resignation Friday, Ohio's Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, both urged Farenthold to repay the funds.

"I thank Blake Farenthold for his service in Congress," Stivers said in a statement Friday. "I hope Blake is true to his word and pays back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used as a settlement. As I have said repeatedly, Congress must hold ourselves to a higher standard and regain the trust of the American people."

"Mr. Farenthold made a commitment that he would reimburse taxpayers for the settlement," said AshLee Strong, Ryan's spokeswoman. "He reiterated his commitment to the speaker and the speaker expects him to follow through."

Farenthold's estimated net worth in 2015, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, was $5.8 million.

Farenthold did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday as to whether or not he will repay the funds.

In light of multiple harassment scandals involving members of Congress, Congress recently passed legislation prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims, forcing lawmakers to pay their own settlements. 

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