Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For Nancy Pelosi, Some Women Need Not Apply

Sometimes something bothers you for a long time, as did the incident (video below) which occurred almost two years ago to this day, when Politico reported 

Nancy Pelosi was peppered with questions about her decision to stay on as Democratic leader on Wednesday, but one particular inquiry set her off: on her age.

It came from NBC's Luke Russert, who asked whether Pelosi's move blocks a new generation of Democratic leaders. Pelosi is 72 years old, and her next two deputies — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Assistant Leader James Clyburn — are 73 and 72.
"Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long run," Russert said. "What's your response?"
Even before he could finish his question, the dozens of female House Democrats standing behind Pelosi — both veteran lawmakers and newly-elected freshmen — began booing the reporter. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is 66, shouted: "Discrimination! Discrimination! Discrimination!"
"Oh, you always ask that question, except to Mitch McConnell," Pelosi replied.
When Russert pressed further, Pelosi responded: "So you're suggesting that everybody step aside? ... Let's for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it's quite offensive. But you don't realize that, I guess."

The Minority Leader was overly defensive and rude. She also was wrong because Russert likely had heard doubts from Pelosi's colleagues about her decision to remain the Party's leader in the House. Further, there is no indication he "always" asks "that question" nor that he wouldn't ask it of Mitch McConnell, were similar doubts expressed of him by his caucus.
The remark "but you don't realize that, I guess" seems to be a rather snide reference to Russert's age or the nature of his (legacy) appointment as a correspondent with a major network.  If Pelosi did have a problem with that, she should have made that explicit. 
No matter. Neither the Minority Leader's remarks nor the muted- or perhaps nonexistent- response to them was important at the time. But they ought to be now. The Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson finds
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is eight months pregnant and cannot travel to Washington, will not be allowed to vote by proxy in the upcoming leadership battles, as Democrats refused to make an exception to their hard-and-fast rules about proxy voting.
National Journal reports that Duckworth, a Iraq War veteran and double amputee, wrote a letter to her colleagues, asking that she be allowed to participate in the votes:
I write to request your assistance regarding upcoming votes four our Caucus. As you are aware, I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy, and have been instructed by my physician not to travel. As a result, I will not be attending the upcoming Caucus meetings in person. I would like to request a proxy vote on the upcoming leadership and ranking member elections that will come before the Caucus in the coming weeks
The denial comes amidst a leadership fight that will offer little drama at the top, but plenty for the top seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) is vacating his post. According to the National Journal, Duckworth's request also got jumbled up with a request by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), who also requested a proxy vote because she has to attend a funeral.
Though some backed Duckworth, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) both wanted to hold firm on the no-proxy-vote rule:
"Congresswoman DeLauro does not want to set a precedent. There are many meritorious situations where the argument could be made for a waiver, including Congresswoman Duckworth's. The question is, how do you choose?" said DeLauro spokeswoman Sara Lonardo, in a statement to the National Journal.
Pelosi is known to favor one of her biggest supporters, Anna Eshoo of California, over Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Still, here is a couple of ways to choose. A person does not attend a funeral in order to have a jolly good time, but to offer her respect. (Something like a wedding, even a christening/baptism, would stand be different.)  Moreover, a political party which is dedicated to women's rights- or at least, in contrast to the other party, not dedicated to their obstruction- should have little issue with making an exception for pregnancy.
It gets worse, for Malika Henderson continues   
For Democrats, who have framed themselves as the party of working women, this does put them in an awkward position. It comes, for instance, as the Supreme Court is set to decide a case about pregnant workers' rights involving United Parcel Service and a pregnant woman who sued them for discrimination. UPS recently reversed its decision and, starting Jan. 1, will offer light duty to pregnant workers.
At issue is whether pregnant workers should be afforded the same type of legal protections as disabled workers who would be allowed special accommodations that would allow them to do their job.
The PWFA has 34 sponsors, all Democrats (including Independent Bernie Sanders, more of a Democrat than most of them) and reads 
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act -- Declares it an unlawful employment practice for employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and other specified entities to: (1) fail to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of job applicants or employees, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on such an entity's business operation; (2) deny employment opportunities based on the need of the entity to make such reasonable accommodations; (3) require such job applicants or employees to accept an accommodation that they choose not to accept; or (4) require such employees to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to their known limitations.
But it gets worse. Duckworth, whose doctor recommends she not travel because of her pregnancy, lost both her legs while serving as a US Army helicopter pilot in Iraq.  (She graciously did not mention that in her request.) 
In an ironic twist, a Politico reporter writes
Pelosi noted that she tapped Duckworth to fill one of the Democrat’s five positions on the House’s Select Committee on Benghazi after learning of Duckworth’s pregnancy.
“She is a heroine to our country. Knowing about the baby, I appointed Congresswoman Duckworth to the Benghazi committee,” she said. “I wanted our strongest members there. I said just take it as it comes.”
The California Democrat added that she spoke with Duckworth and the two had a “lovely” conservation.
So the Minority Leader who believed she was calling out sexism when she told a male reporter "Oh, you always ask that question, except to Mitch McConnell,' now rationalizes deciding against her female colleague because she threw her a crumb, appointing her to a select committee. And oh by the way, the two had a "lovely" conversation.

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