The Washington Post

New House Republican package aims to turn ‘war on women’ into ‘war for women’

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) in January 2014. (Susan Walsh/AP)

House Republicans released a package of bills Wednesday they say will appeal to women by improving their lives at work and at home — but conceded that many of them would not be signed into law any time soon.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said the package of bills will help individuals – especially women –by giving them more flexibility over their time off, updating job training programs, changing the tax code to benefit those with children and improving charter schools.

“Women make up half of our workforce, 50 percent are the primary income earners in their households, they are making the majority of purchasing decisions — 80, 85 percent of purchasing decisions — yes, women like to shop,” she said. “So our workforce has changed, but our laws also need to reflect what is a changing workforce.”

But with only one day remaining before August recess – and only 12 legislative days between when lawmakers return and the November midterms — many of the items will never see the president’s desk.

So why now?

McMorris Rogers, flanked by a dozen of her House GOP colleagues, said it was still important to highlight that they tried, and declined to put a timeline on when the package could be passed.

“I thought this timing was great because we can highlight what we have done,” said McMorris Rodgers at a news conference.  “I think it’s important that there is a recognition that we’ve been working on these bills, on these solutions for a long time and we’ve seen some successes but there’s still more work to be done.”

Republicans are headed into the midterm elections determined to change the “war on women” narrative Democrats successfully used against them in 2012 to the “war for women.”

Democrats in Washington and on the campaign trail have made the issue of equal pay key to their midterm message – and have included a provision in their election year legislative package that would penalize employers from pay discrimination based solely on gender as well as bar employers from retaliating against employees for discussing their wages.

A similar retaliation provision – authored by McMorris Rodgers — is also included in the Republican package.

A new report from the National Women’s Law Center shows women still make up a larger share of the “low wage workforce” than their male colleagues – “regardless of their education level, age, marital or parental status, race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Two-thirds of the nation’s low-wage workers – those making $10.10 an hour or lower – are women, the report says, a figure that has increased over the past few years. Nearly one third of the low-wage workforce are mothers and more than a quarter are 50 or older. The report notes that “more than 35 percent of women’s net job gains during the recovery from the Great Recession have been in jobs that typically pay $10.10 per hour or less.”

“Our startling and disturbing findings belie the conventional wisdom that women are thriving in today’s economy and underscore a basic fact:  the job and income prospects for many women are bleak,” Joan Entmacher, NWLC vice president for Family Economic Security, said in a release about the study.   “Women are underpaid and overloaded with stress from low incomes, high caregiving responsibilities, and employers and policy makers who still don’t get it.”

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