Mikulski casts budget fight as women’s issue
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski led a group of female senators Tuesday in opposing a Republican budget plan approved by the House of Representatives, arguing that the measure’s proposed overhaul of Medicare would adversely affect women.
“We feel that we’re under attack,” the Maryland Democrat, who was joined by five other female -- and two male – Democratic senators, said during a Capitol Hill news conference. “We can look at every aspect of this bill and we can see that when it comes to the health of American women, [it] is the wrong prescription.”
The effort by Mikulski and other Democratic female lawmakers in Washington follows a similar push earlier this year against a GOP plan to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. Though that debate largely turned on abortion, Mikulski cast the proposal as one that would deprive women of preventative health care. The provision was ultimately dropped from the spending bill Congress approved last month.
This time, the Democratic women of the Senate are battling a 2012 spending plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, that would trim federal budget deficits by giving seniors a federal subsidy they would use to purchase private health insurance.
Democrats have pounced on the message that the proposal would “end Medicare as we know it,” and they have pointed to a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that shows the cost of health care would increase for seniors under the plan. Some Republicans, including Ryan, counter that Medicare as it exists is unsustainable and that changes must be made or the program will run out of money.
“We're being sensible, we're being rational, and we're saving this program,” Ryan said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The GOP proposal has no chance of winning approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate this year. In fact, it is Senate Democrats who are trying to bring the Ryan budget to the floor as they try to use the Medicare fight as a wedge issue against Republicans and force them to vote on the idea in advance of the 2012 election.
But even as many Democrats acknowledge changes must be made to Medicare, the female senators said Monday that any cuts would have an especially significant impact on women, partly because women live longer on average and are more likely to rely on the program.
“This is really a sick proposal,” said California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Meanwhile, a group of women’s organizations, including the National Organization for Women, took aim at deficit talks that are being led by the White House. Vice President Joe Biden is leading a group of lawmakers who hope to find a bipartisan solution to the debt issue. The negotiators involved in that process are all men.
“Women are not prominently there at the meeting,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the organization. “The disproportionate impact on women is not at the center of the analysis and must be at the center of the analysis.”