The Republican Congress Repeatedly Attacks Women’s Economic Security
Even as Republican House and Senate leaders scramble to avoid a looming budget shutdown, Republican Congressional leaders have gone out of their way to attack Planned Parenthood, with yesterday’s charged hearing where Congressional Republicans again rehashed discredited attacks against the health provider and votes to end federal funding for it. This is all political theater—as expected, a measure defunding Planned Parenthood was easily defeated in the Senate last week and the House just passed a bill to avert a government shutdown—but once again, conservatives in Congress are demonstrating how far they will go to gut one of the nation’s leading suppliers of women’s health services.
Planned Parenthood and other women’s health providers are essential for women’s economic security, providing resources for women to make their own choices about family planning. However, the attack on Planned Parenthood is only one way this Congress, the first fully Republican Congress in eight years, is attacking women. The Congressional GOP’s legislative agenda has also repeatedly undermined the economic security of women and working families in other ways. Republicans have refused to take action on proposals to support paid sick leave, to promote pay equity, and to help working families get access to pre-school while pushing policies that will set women and working families back.
As many women and their families continue struggle through an economic recovery that has left too many people behind, Congress must drop the political games and enact policies that allow women and families to get ahead.
Paid Sick Leave. Forty-three million American workers do not have access to paid sick days through their employers, meaning that these workers risk losing pay or their jobs when they need a day off to take care of themselves or their children. 70 percent of Americans support requiring companies to offer paid sick to their employees, and 50 percent of small businesses would support a law requiring employers to let employees earn paid sick time. Earlier this year, the Senate took a vote to express support for paid sick leave, but the majority of Republicans (39 of 54) voted against it and the Republicans who voted in favor—many of whom will have close reelection contests in 2016—have not taken any meaningful action on paid sick leave since.
Equal pay for equal work. Women earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn. Rather than move forward and pass legislation that would help to close the pay gap and strengthen equal pay protections, Congressional Republican leaders have done little to give more than lip service to ensuring that women and men are paid fairly for their work. Two Republican equal pay bills are now pending, but there has been no serious effort to discuss what steps are needed to address discriminatory pay practices. Congressional Republicans have previously voted down Congressional Democrats’ wage gap bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, three times.
Pre-kindergarten for working families. Even though research shows that pre-school can significantly improve a child’s later-in-life outcomes, that pre-school can significantly help families address childcare costs, and that low-income families are the least likely to participate in pre-school programs, Republicans blocked an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act that would have provided federally-funded pre-kindergarten to over 3 million children in each of the 50 states. The proposal would have been paid for by closing special interest tax loopholes.
Minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage is one of the single biggest actions Congress can take to help improve women’s and working families’ economic security: 56 percent of the workers who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $12/hour by 2020 are women, and 27 percent of women who are also working moms would see their wages improve. But rather than take meaningful action to help these workers, 52 of 54 Republican Senators voted against supporting an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10/hour, keeping good on a promise Mitch McConnell made explicit to a group of conservative donors in June 2014 not to let the minimum wage go up.
BOTTOM LINE: Attacks on Planned Parenthood may be dominating the news, but the pains Republicans have taken to go after Planned Parenthood only tell half the story: this Republican Congress has failed to do anything meaningful addressing women’s economic security. It’s time for Congressional Republicans to stop grandstanding and come up with a legislative agenda that helps women get ahead.
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