Let’s hope there’s generous funding in Republicans’ new health-care bill to prevent and cure tone-deafness.
Wednesday was International Women’s Day, and to observe this annual commemoration House Republicans formally took up their legislation defunding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of health services for women.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, at a news conference Wednesday morning, boasted about ending the funding of Planned Parenthood, listing it as one of the things “we’ve been dreaming about doing.” And what better time to make this dream come true than on International Women’s Day, on the eighth day of Women’s History Month?
This could be the beginning of a new legislative style in Congress:
Bills to “build the wall” could be marked up on Cinco de Mayo.
The Iranian nuclear deal could be scrapped later this month on Nowruz.
Plans to cut military assistance to Europe could be rolled out on D-Day.
It’s enough to give new meaning to National Awkward Moments Day – observed on March 18.
President Trump, in a morning tweet, marked International Women’s Day by hailing women as “vital to the fabric of our society.” But that’s not quite the message his administration and its allies in Congress have been sending. Women’s rights activists held a strike and protests Wednesday, declaring it “A Day Without a Woman.” In the Trump White House, it must often feel like that kind of day – and not only because Melania is in New York.
A USA Today analysis last month found that men outnumbered women by more than 2 to 1 among top White House aides. Trump named only four women to his Cabinet, the fewest in a generation, and none to the top jobs at the State, Treasury, Defense and Justice Departments. His nominee for labor secretary withdrew as opponents made an issue of the way he and his company treated women, and Trump fired acting attorney general Sally Yates, an Obama administration holdover, after she refused to back his first travel ban.
Meeting with the nation’s governors recently, Trump welcomed the governors “and their wives and daughters,” as if no women were governors. Trump’s vulgar statements about women, caught on tape, were a prominent part of the campaign, and, according to the media outlet Axios, he requires women working for him to “dress like women.” He has hired as his executive assistant in the White House a 26-year-old barre fitness instructor who served as the elevator “greeter” at Trump Tower.
And it isn’t just about appearances, as Emily’s List, a Democratic group that supports abortion rights, notes. On Jan. 23, two days after the huge Women’s March in the nation’s capital and other cities, Trump signed an executive order reinstating the global gag rule denying international funding to any organization that discusses abortion, even if the group doesn’t perform abortions. A photo of the signing showed Trump surrounded by men.
Trump on his first day in office signed an order to “ease the burden” of Obamacare and has blessed the congressional legislation that could end Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and its rule requiring insurance plans to cover maternity care. The bill is silent on the provision in Obamacare requiring contraception to be provided at low cost.
Trump, who promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, nominated to the court Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the appellate decision in the Hobby Lobby case exempting employers from providing birth control as part of employer health plans if it conflicts with management’s religious beliefs.
As of the end of last week, only eight bills had been passed by the new Congress and signed into law by Trump, half of them noncontroversial “suspension” bills. But it isn’t for lack of trying.
Republicans in Congress have introduced a variety of abortion bans. The House passed the “No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act,” which opponents charge could block even private insurance from covering abortion.
The House passed a bill overturning a rule President Barack Obama signed in December forbidding discrimination against Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers under Title X – clearing the way, Democrats say, to reducing access to contraception. The Senate, likewise, used the Congressional Review Act in its vote to overturn Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” rule, designed to protect against, among other things, sexual harassment in the workplace.
That’s quite a bit, and it’s still early. If this is how Trump and his allies in Congress celebrate International Women’s Day, one shudders to think how they will observe April 5: National Go for Broke Day.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.