Washington Update (December 20, 2013)
It’s hard to believe this is our last issue of AAUW Washington Update in 2013 (while policy marches on, we’re giving you a well-deserved break for the holidays). Thank you for being a loyal reader, advocate, and member of the AAUW community – truly, “thank you” doesn’t even begin to cover it!
One of the perks of being an AAUW member who has had the good foresight to sign up for this members-only newsletter is that you get the “insider’s take” on what’s going on in Washington, D.C. You also get concrete, proven opportunities and ideas you can use to help AAUW make change. To that end, here’s a sneak preview of some of our 2014 advocacy priorities:
- Now that we have a budget deal, urge Congress to pass appropriations bills that include adequate funding for key AAUW priorities;
- Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House and Senate, and continue promoting a Women’s Economic Agenda;
- Ensure the needs of girls and safety of all students are included in the reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act, Workforce Investment Act, and Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
- Help bring our employment laws more in line with the needs of the 21st century workforce and the rest of the world by expanding access to paid sick days and creating a paid family and medical leave insurance program;
- Work with Congress to come up with a bipartisan solution to protect voting rights nationwide;
- Reform our broken immigration system to provide a fair and just path to legal status for immigrants, promote policies against human trafficking, honor an earlier deal with Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) authors to include battered immigrant provisions, implement the DREAM Act, and provide a long-term solution for growing our domestic science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce; and
- Urge President Obama and the executive branch to assertively advance equal pay, Title IX and civil rights enforcement, closing the educational achievement gap, promoting efforts to encourage STEM education, and other issues within the regulatory process (remember, once a bill becomes a law, it’s up to the executive branch to develop the rules and enforce it).
Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, and I have no doubt Congress will keep things, well, interesting! But whatever comes down the policy pike, you can bet that AAUW will be there to represent the needs of women and girls wherever our voices are needed. Your support makes AAUW one of the most trusted and visible advocacy groups around, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Thank you again for your persistent advocacy, your unswerving dedication, and your good humor. My staff and I look forward to continuing this critical work with you in the new year.
Have a happy and healthy holiday season,
AAUW Vice President of Government Relations
Please note there will no Washington Update on Friday, December 27, or Friday, January 3, due to the holidays. Washington Update will return on Friday, January 10.
ONE THING YOU MUST DO…
With Congress heading home this month, it’s the perfect time to submit a letter to the editor to your local newspaper! Use AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist tool to easily send a letter about the wage gap, access to contraception, or the importance of preventive health care.
BUT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO MORE…
Want to write your own letter to the editor on an issue of your choice? AAUW’s “How to Write a Letter to the Editor” resource is your best guide!
We’re loving this Pantene Philippines #WhipIt commercial that takes negative stereotypes of women leaders and flips those ideas on their head. Know what we love even more? The news that this commercial is coming to the U.S.!
Share AAUW’s blog about the advertisement with the following sample tweet:
Finally! A commercial that takes negative stereotypes of women leaders & flips those ideas on their head. http://bit.ly/1beRK1h
The Girl Scout Research Institute released a new report this week called The State of Girls: Unfinished Business. The report identifies key issues and major trends affecting girls in the U.S.
Congress Passes Two-Year Budget
On Wednesday, the Senate passed the bipartisan two-year budget agreement that passed the House last week, thereby sending the bill to President Obama to be signed into law. The bill, which was developed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), restores $32 billion of the total $74 billion that was scheduled to be cut in January by sequestration. However, the budget deal is certainly a mixed bag. The deal does not fully eliminate the sequester cuts, does not address the debt limit (setting up a potential confrontation in March), and does not extend long-term unemployment insurance beyond December 28.
Congress Approves Major Changes to Handling of Military Sexual Assault; Obama Calls for More
Late Thursday night, the Senate passed a version of the annual defense policy and funding bill that includes major changes for the military’s handling of sexual assault and rape. The bill, which the president is expected to sign, would end the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases, forbid commanders from overturning jury convictions; prohibit retaliation against people who report sexual assault; and give more control over prosecutions to civilian defense officials instead of military commanders. Just hours after the Senate passed this bill, President Barack Obama announced that he is giving the military one year to improve its handling of sexual assault cases or face even tougher reforms. Meanwhile, the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office will have a new director come January, when Maj. Gen. Gary Patton resigns and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow takes his place.
- AAUW believes the measures approved as part of the defense bill are a start to addressing the scourge of military sexual assault, but we must do more. We will continue to urge lawmakers and military officials in 2014 to take the crime of military sexual assault out of the chain of command and give this authority to an independent body.
U.S. Representatives Announce Their Retirements
This week Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) each announced plans to retire at the end of their terms in 2014. The group has served a combined 68 years in Congress. Competitive races are already shaping up to fill the open seats, with a likely Republican pickup in Utah, a potential Democratic pickup in Iowa, and a potentially heated race for the seat in Virginia.
STATE SPOTLIGHT: CALIFORNIA
AAUW-CA Helps Increase Awareness of Health Care Coverage Options
Just in time for the holiday season, why not give the gift of health? Or pledge to help your loved ones find the health insurance coverage they need? AAUW of California is collaborating with the Covered California holiday campaign to raise awareness of the importance of purchasing health care coverage as the open enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act nears. Check out AAUW of California President Alicia Hetman’s quote about this important effort!
AAUW CHEER OF THE WEEK
This week the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the Social Security Administration all announced policy changes resulting from the Supreme Court decision overturning Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Social Security will begin processing some widow and widower claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages; the Department of Education will recognize all legal same-sex marriages for federal financial aid purposes; and the Department of Defense has worked with National Guards in every state to ensure all same-sex couples will be able to receive military benefits regardless of whether their state recognizes marriage equality.
AAUW JEER OF THE WEEK
Congress is leaving town this week without extending emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. It’s estimated that 1.3 million out-of-work Americans will lose their unemployment insurance on December 28, and another 800,000 or so workers will fall out of the program in the months after. Happy holidays, indeed.
- Stay tuned for opportunities to take action on this issue when Congress returns in January!
BITS AND PIECES
- On Tuesday, former state Sen. Bradley Byrne (R) won the special election for Alabama’s vacant 1st Congressional District. Byrne will succeed ex-GOP Rep. Jo Bonner, who resigned earlier this year to take a position with the University of Alabama system.
- On Monday, the Senate confirmed former Pentagon general counsel Jeh C. Johnson as secretary of homeland security.
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reiterated this week that she thinks Supreme Court justices should keep working beyond their retirement age, if they feel able to do so. Her comments were perceived as pushing back against the liberal pressure she’s received to retire before 2016 so President Obama can appoint her successor.
- This week the staff of RH Reality Check posted its wrap-up of the pro-choice successes of 2013. The list includes the “feminist army” fighting women’s health restrictions in Texas, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception, and the expansion of abortion access in California.