Washington Update (October 4, 2013)

It’s day four of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, and I’m fed up.

Fed up with members of Congress who think it’s OK to play politics with women’s health and the budget debate. Fed up with members of Congress holding the nation hostage over a law (the Affordable Care Act) that was passed by both chambers, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Fed up with a Congress that seems to be just fine ignoring its job while millions of working families bear the brunt of the shutdown’s effects.

But getting mad isn’t enough — we need to show our members of Congress that we’re fightin’ mad and we’re not going to take it anymore. We need to talk to our friends, family, and neighbors about why we’re fed up with the shutdown and what we can do about it. Please: Take some time this weekend to get mad and get active, whether that’s by writing your member of Congress, writing a letter to the editor or op-ed, or speaking at your upcoming branch meeting or event about the shutdown.

This week’s Washington Update mentions only some of the shutdown’s devastating effects on women and families, and sadly the effects will only worsen over time. Members of Congress need to get their act together. They need to hear from us — tell your representatives to shut down this shutdown. NOW.

Yours in AAUW

Lisa M. Maatz
Vice President of Government Relations

Subscribe to Washington Update

ONE THING YOU MUST DO

You heard Lisa: She’s fed up, and we’ve got to act! Everything you need to know is in her opening message, and it will only take you a few minutes to act.

BUT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO MORE

Here’s something that will take just 30 seconds: Copy and paste the following text onto your Facebook page to spread the message, “Shut Down the Shutdown.”

For Facebook: Four days in, the government shutdown is keeping kids home from preschool and forcing women and children to worry about having enough to eat. Enough is enough. Shut down the shutdown http://bit.ly/19XFbqI

GET SOCIAL

Watch and share our video about the power of Title IX (and the AAUW community), which premiered at the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks game last month!

For Facebook: Thanks to Title IX and groups like AAUW and the WNBA, more girls than ever have the opportunity to throw, run, jump, shoot — whatever they want — like a girl. http://bit.ly/15qFU5T

NEW RESOURCES

Are you a middle or high school gender studies teacher? Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the AAUW Gender Studies Symposium, Creating Classrooms of Justice: Teacher Gender Studies in School, featuring high school teacher and esteemed activist Ileana Jimenez. This exciting one-day event will be at the University of Missouri, St. Louis on Saturday, October 26, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Just a few weeks left to apply for a 2013–2014 Campus Action Project grant! This year’s grants will focus on the issues raised in the research report Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success. Teams of college students, faculty adviser(s), and AAUW branch liaisons must implement their projects during the 2014 spring semester. Application deadline is Monday, October 21.


TOP STORIES

Costly Government Shutdown Impacts Millions

So far, the current government shutdown is costing taxpayers $12.5 million  per hour, with new impacts becoming clearer each day (for example, you may have noticed we have no new jobs numbers to report this week because the Department of Labor postponed its monthly jobs report). In addition, 800,000 federal employees are working without pay, educational field trips to National Parks have been canceled, and soon the Department of Veterans Affairs may be unable to pay disability claims or pension payments. The long-term price remains unknown, yet it is clear that women and families are bearing the brunt of the costs with the loss of funding for programs such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and Head Start programs.

Next Fiscal Deadline: October 17

A federal government shutdown has happened before – but later this month, Congress will face another deadline that, if breached, would lead to the first U.S. government default in history. The debt ceiling is essentially a line of credit Congress extends to the Treasury to pay publicly held federal debt as well as debts to the government itself such as Social Security bonds. If the current debt ceiling is not increased before October 17, the U.S. government will not be able to pay bills already owed, thus causing a default. No one truly knows what a default would mean, but at a minimum, it would hurt market confidence in the United States, affecting U.S. bonds, the strength of the dollar, and the U.S. stock market. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated to colleagues this week that he won’t allow a default to occur, even if he has to rely on the support of House Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, but it remains unclear whether the House Republican caucus would allow him to follow that path.

UM-Missoula Moves Forward with New Sexual Assault Policy

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education approved the University of Montana-Missoula’s new campus sexual assault policy. Federal approval of the new policy was a key component of the resolution agreement announced in May following a review of the university’s handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints.

  • AAUW recognizes the hard work of AAUW-Montana in monitoring the Title IX complaints against UM and communicating with the Montana University Board of Regents about this issue.

STATE SPOTLIGHT: CALIFORNIA

CA Governor Signs AAUW-Supported Bills

The hard work of AAUW-California paid off when Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed two of the bills they supported. The first bill, SB 770, expands the definition of family for whom a worker can take paid leave to include a seriously ill sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law. The second bill, SB 138, protects the personal and sensitive health information of individuals covered under another person’s health insurance policy like a partner, spouse or parent. Congratulations to AAUW-CA on these recent victories!


AAUW CHEER OF THE WEEK

Despite the federal government shutdown, the Health Insurance Marketplace went live Tuesday, giving millions of Americans the opportunity to enroll in affordable, quality health care coverage. Enrollment will be open until March 31, 2014, and coverage will begin January 1, 2014. Find out what all this means for you!


AAUW JEER OF THE WEEK:

The Department of Education announced Wednesday that default rates continue to rise for federal student loans. The percentage of people who defaulted on their loans within two years of beginning repayment rose from 9.1 percent in fiscal year 2010 to 10 percent for fiscal year 2011. The three-year default rate rose as well.


BITS AND PIECES

  • As expected, Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) formally announced her entry into the 2014 gubernatorial election on Thursday. Davis garnered state and national attention in June for an 11-hour filibuster opposing an anti-abortion bill championed by current Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is not running for re-election.
  • Despite Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s insistence that the committee delay their vote, the Pentagon’s Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services voted to support legislation from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would take decisions about sexual assault in the military out of the strict chain of command.
  • In recognition of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing resources explaining warning signs of bullying and how to respond.
  • D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson signed an agreement this week with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to ensure girls will receive the same opportunities to play sports as boys as required by Title IX. The agreement resulted from a settlement of two civil rights claims recently filed against D.C., charging that the District’s high school sports programs systematically discriminated against girls.
  • AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman, CAE, published an op-ed on Wednesday about the work that still needs to be done to decrease the 23 percent gender pay gap.

Read past issues of Washington Update