As Congressional leaders and the administration debate the country’s fiscal future, a collection of women’s organizations on Tuesday requested that they infuse one missing ingredient into the high-level talks: estrogen.
Vice President Joseph Biden and administration officials met Tuesday to discuss the deficit with Members such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) as well as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and economic adviser Gene Sperling attended the talks as well.
“Women are not prominently there at the meeting,” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said during a conference call with reporters. “We are concerned that the disproportionate impact on women of the proposed budget cuts is not at the center of the analysis and must be at the center of the analysis.”
O’Neill’s group along with 14 others, including the Older Women’s Economic Security Task Force, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Women’s Political Caucus, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to put a woman at the table.
“We welcome the opportunity to bring our voices and expertise to a discussion with you and your advisors, and we request that members of your administration with expertise on women’s issues, such as Secretary Hilda Solis and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, be added to the White House’s advisory team working on these negotiations,” the women’s organizations wrote in the letter. “It is not simply enough to send a few privileged men to the table to ‘solve’ the nation’s budget problem.”
A spokeswoman for the vice president said the administration has not forgotten about women’s issues in the budget fight.
“President Obama and Vice President Biden are deeply committed to creating greater economic security for women and their families and will continue to protect programs and promote policies that support this effort,” Amy Dudley said in an email. “We will also continue to oppose plans, such as Congressman Ryan’s, that put women’s economic security at risk.”
Some of the female administration members involved in budget matters include senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Nancy-Ann DeParle, deputy chief of staff for policy, and Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council.
O’Neill said her group has heard back from the president’s staff members, who are willing to meet with them. “That is a good first baby step,” she said.
And the women’s organizations are finding they have some allies on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said Republican-proposed changes to Medicare will hit women harder than men.
“Women often work part time or leave the workforce while raising families. As a result, they have less average savings for retirement and lower Social Security benefits,” she said on the Senate floor, according to prepared remarks. “For these women, Medicare is a critical source of financial security. It keeps many of them out of poverty. The House Republican proposal will end that security.”
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