Selling out women and families in sequestration

By Stephanie Schriock on
March 5, 2013

 

This piece was originally published in The Hill on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.
 
It sure looks like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can’t get enough of giving women the short end of the stick. Just two weeks after voting against the Violence Against Women Act, McConnell continues to play games with the health and safety of Kentucky women.
 
VAWA did finally pass, after a seemingly endless fight championed by pro-choice Democratic women in the House and Senate. But just hours after Republicans were finally shamed in to voting for this vital piece of legislation, they grabbed at the first opportunity to weaken it.
 
On March 1, McConnell and the Republican Party stayed true to form and refused to stop sequestration, a series of devastating cuts to VAWA and other programs that women and families need.
 
Democrats had a reasonable way to avoid this potential catastrophe: their balanced plan included cuts, revenue increases, and closing tax loopholes while protecting the middle class.
 
Not even the 1.4 million jobs and devastating program cuts at risk could convince Republicans to negotiate. They’ve shown once again that they’ll go to great lengths and put American families at risk just to protect their special interest tax loopholes.
 
In the face of sequestration, Speaker John Boehner proved that he was ineffective as a leader to stop it, and passed the buck to the Senate to reach a compromise. With the ball squarely in McConnell’s court he simply refused to negotiate. And it isn’t a mystery why: as a career politician, McConnell has a decades-long record of selling out Kentucky women and families to benefit his corporate and billionaire pals.
 
There’s one catch, though: women in Kentucky have noticed what Mitch McConnell is up to. McConnell currently holds the distinction of being the least popular senator in the country.
 
Our most unpopular senator found himself in the company of only 21 other Republican men when he voted against the Violence Against Women Act. And now by allowing the sequester to happen, he’s blocked aid for victims of violence twice in just one month.  
 
That money isn’t just a line-item on a budget – it helps real women in times of real need. The consequences of sequestration for victims of domestic violence are grim. Sequestration will cut VAWA programs by $20 million, which will put over 35,000 victims at risk. Cuts will also limit critical training in domestic violence response for thousands of police officers and legal experts – dramatically reducing their ability to keep women safe.
 
I just can’t understand the reasoning of a politician looking to make things more difficult for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. And unfortunately, the cuts don’t stop there.
 
Sequestration hurts women and families in so many other ways. 56 percent of Social Security beneficiaries are women, and furloughs will force 20,000 social security claims to go unheard – every day.
 
Sequestration will force 600,000 women and children to be dropped from WIC rolls, depriving them of needed nutrition and food security. The CDC will lose $350 million, resulting in 25,000 few breast and cervical cancer screenings. 70,000 kids will be forced off Head Start rolls. And over $1 billion will be cut from education funding.
 
It’s not often in life that choices are this stark. McConnell had two options: either prevent the sequestration with reasonable cuts and revenue increases, or let millions of Americans suffer terrible consequences to their health, safety, and livelihood. But McConnell and his Republican colleagues were more focused on the bottom line than the wellbeing of our nation’s women and families. And now these drastic cuts have become a reality. 
 
We know where Mitch McConnell stands. He is choosing to protect his corporate and billionaire buddies at the expense of Kentucky women and families. But the other thing we know for certain: women will remember this in November.
 

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