House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office on Wednesday brushed off criticism over the lack of women involved in the ongoing debt limit negotiations.
Spokesman Drew Hammill said the California Democrat, who served as the first female Speaker, maintains confidence in her selection of Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to the panel working with Vice President Joseph Biden.
“Leader Pelosi’s appointments to these talks are routinely coming back to consult with various elements of our diverse House Democratic Caucus,” Hammill said in a statement.
Biden has been meeting with Clyburn, Van Hollen, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) about finding a way to raise the debt limit before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department forecasts the nation will begin defaulting on its debt. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and economic adviser Gene Sperling have also attend the talks.
“Women are not prominently there at the meeting,” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said Tuesday 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 and 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, urged President Barack Obama in a letter to include women.
House Democratic aides affirmed Pelosi’s selection.
“Pelosi and the rest of the House Democratic leadership are getting regular updates from Van Hollen and Clyburn,” a Democratic aide said. “Pelosi is personally in constant contact with Van Hollen and Clyburn. And she is the only leader of one of the parties in Congress who is a woman.”
Kate Ackley contributed to this story.
Correction: May 25, 2011
The article misquoted a Democratic aide. The correct quote is: “And she is the only leader of one of the parties in Congress who is a woman.”