A great moment in Democratic Party politics occurred at ’High Noon’ on Friday when the so-called “budget impasse” between the House, the Senate, and the White House was looking as if we might really have a government shut-down. But Democratic women pro-choice senators took to a public stage, led by Patty Murray (D-WA), who was seething at a low boil, as she rebuked House Republicans for their naked attempts to end health care for low-income women and their families, under the guise of “saving” taxpayer dollars.
“The Democratic women of the Senate are here this afternoon to express our anger and disappointment, that after weeks of being told that the continuation of funding for this government was about budget cuts, and deficits and spending,” Murray said. “Well, now we find out at the 11th hour, hours before the the government shuts down, that that’s not what it’s all about.”
I was really moved by each senator’s leadership who confronted and called out Republican tactics for what they really are–a war on women and low-income Americans. It was the most vigorous and articulate defense of Democratic Party principles during this entire sordid budget affair.
We at The New Civil Rights Movement take these battles seriously as this site has dedicated ample editorial to an examination of the Republican Party’s war on women, children, poor people and immigrants, as they are directly connected to the extreme right-wing’s war on obstructing the extension of civil rights to LGBT peoples in America.
If there were any doubt in President Barack Obama and what he would be willing to give up to the House in his compromising spirit, after the Democratic women senators spoke, it was clear that defunding Planned Parenthood was not one of them.
Democratic woman drew the line in the sand that compromising by NOT protecting women’s health care access was absolutely a bridge too far to go, even for the president who took a decidedly distant approach to the budget fracas to stay above the political fray.
As the worm turned on Thursday following a week of nearly daily feuding press conferences in the nation’s capital, Planned Parenthood and Naral Pro-Choice America hastily organized a rally on the mall in support of maintaining funding for women’s health. Cheered on by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was presented with a petition signed by thousands of supporters in their opposition to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and other health clinics around the country that provide birth contraceptives and general health care to women and men.
There was no mistaking why Schumer would appear at this rally. Schumer emerged this week as a major Democratic leader in the Senate and will be for a long time to come.
(Bob Dole, former Senate Republican Majority Leader once quipped that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and the television.”)
Famous for his Sunday afternoon press conferences in New York, Schumer has seamlessly pivoted to his new role as the Senate Democrats’ messenger-in-chief. His uncanny ability to synthesize political policies into effective media messaging came to the forefront, prominently displayed, this past week in the Democrats’ first major battle in the 112th Congress with Republicans.
With many more battles likely to occur, as Congress finally turns its attention to the business of the FY 2012 authorizations and appropriations, the Democrats will need all of Schumer’s messaging skills, as I predict it is going to get much more difficult dealing with the House Republicans, along with their Tea Party caucus, before it gets better, until we can await new and more hopeful results from the 2012 elections.
But what became abundantly clear as the week’s political events unfolded was the unabashed Republican objective to defund Planned Parenthood’s health care services under Title X of the Public Health Service Act of 1970, a 41-year-old health care program that includes family planning services for low-income Americans, made into law by Republican President Richard Nixon.
(Nixon, who in comparison to current extreme Republican Party ideologues, probably couldn’t get elected today to dog catcher and that is saying something considerable when it comes to Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign his presidency in 1974, due to his administration’s cover-up of a burglary by Republican campaign loyalists who broke into the Democratic Party headquarter’s offices located at the infamous Watergate Hotel.)
“No American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition. I believe, therefore, that we should establish as a national goal the provision of family planning services…to all who want but cannot afford them.”
- President Richard M. Nixon, 1970
The House Republican women members fecklessly responded to the Democratic women in their desperate attempt to defend the Republican goal of cutting spending, but chose to inartfully ignore reporters’ more pointed questions about Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) policy rider to defund Title X or else shut down the government. When the group of 15 congresswomen began talking over one another in an uncoordinated response, according to Talking Points Memo, Rep. Jean Schmitt (R-OH), jumped to the microphone and said, “This is about a package. We can’t tell you what we’re going to do until we see the next package. What the Senate is doing is deflecting the real issue and the real issue is to cut the unnecessary spending in Washington, period. And you can continue to ask the question but the answer is cutting unnecessary spending in Washington.”
So while the GOP women wouldn’t discuss why the government should end a 41-year old effective public health program that provides family planning and contraceptives, ideally preventing unintended pregnancies and therefore more abortions, back in the Senate, perhaps the sorriest performance of the week belonged to Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who simply lied by falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of using federal funds to pay for legal abortions, a separate medical service that is not connected to its general health services. Kyl also lied by saying, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” Abortions represent only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s activities.
And I guess Kyl forgot that federal funds to pay for abortions were banned by the Hyde Amendment, adopted by the Congress 34 years ago. Why not beat a dead, truly dead horse and lie about it too? Then he had the audacity to say he didn’t mean it and was misunderstood. Really!
All of these developments taken together are foreboding enough to contemplate what the future portends to be with the patients running the asylum in the House. Now, we have to wait to know more about the $38 billion worth of budget cuts–”the biggest in history”–even President Obama and some members of Congress are now bragging about, will land. Most likely these sobering cuts will fall on those who can least afford it.
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