Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

With an Eye on the Party’s Image, House GOP Puts Women Front and Center

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There are 19 women in the House Republican Conference, and on Thursday, 11 of them came to the chamber floor in support of a bill they said was a woman’s issue at its core.

The spotlight on GOP women came as part of a debate over changing the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time job from 30 hours a week to 40.

The bill, which passed 248-179, is destined to be ignored by the Senate. But the vote offered Republicans a chance to push back against the Democrats’ election-year narrative that the GOP is just a club for powerful old white men.

That Democratic line of attack has been fueled by embarrassing reports that the GOP party establishment has coached male candidates on how to run against women without being sexist or offensive.

“I think Democrats want you to believe there’s no such thing as conservative women, and that everything we do is harmful to women,” House Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., told CQ Roll Call. “And here we are, as Republican women, discussing legislation that would disproportionately hurt women in our country, and we had a solution to the problem that directly was a result of Democratic policies.”

Jenkins was at the forefront of the choice to put women front and center during Thursday’s debate.

The 2010 health care law defines the average workweek as 30 hours, which Republicans argue has contributed to lost jobs and slashed wages — particularly for working and single mothers.

Though the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., might have been the obvious choice to manage floor debate, Jenkins was chosen for the task. She said the predominantly-male Republican leadership recognized the importance of having women colleagues as the public face of the legislative effort.

“It was just a really good opportunity for us to remind the American people that conservative women stand with them,” she said.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the highest-ranking House Republican woman who serves as the head of the conference in the slot above Jenkins, was also instrumental in the effort, said a GOP leadership aide.

According to the aide, McMorris Rodgers made the initial request that floor time specifically focus on the extent to which women have been affected by the 30-hour workweek rule. She and leading members of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee recruited the roster of 11 female speakers.

In a recent interview with CQ Roll Call, McMorris Rodgers conceded that it is still sometimes difficult to be a woman in a male-dominated Republican Party and also acknowledged that the party needs many more women office-holders on Capitol Hill. She said a concerted recruitment effort, already underway, is critical to the party’s future.

Jenkins said she felt a similar drive to get more women elected to Congress.

“I always joke that men wake up, look in the mirror, say, ‘Darn, I’m awesome, I’m gonna run for Congress,’ ” Jenkins said. “Women don’t think that way. We need for people to call us to tell us we ought to run for office.”

Was that how Jenkins came to seek a seat in Congress?

“It is indeed,” she replied. “And I’m ashamed to say it. I had to be asked. … It shouldn’t be that way.”

House Democrats — who have bragging rights to a much more diverse caucus and to having elected the nation’s first female House speaker — weren’t buying the GOP message on Thursday.

“They cannot be serious,” said a spokeswoman with House Democratic leadership in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “House Republicans have repeatedly voted — 52 times, in fact — to repeal or undermine the [ACA], to make ‘being a woman’ a pre-existing condition, to allow insurance companies to charge women higher premiums, and to strip women of free preventative health screenings.

“I’m not sure who they think they’re fooling,” she said, “but America’s women are too smart to buy it.”

Correction: An earlier version of this report misidentified Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ position with the House Republican Conference.  She is vice chair.

  • Mary

    Will someone help me understand how changing the definition of a full-time job from 30 to 40 hours helps women?

    • GraceD

      It is a standard definition that would be used to meet the ACA requirements for employers to provide access to Health insurance.
      Some companies already offer insurance between 30-32 hrs of work. Hospitals, fro example, work 12 hr shifts., want to provide benefits, but not pay overtime.
      Remember that Federal & State laws set Minimum requirements. Companies can always do more of their own volition.

  • notyranny47

    @ MARY: I assume it would be so that one would possibly not need to work 2 jobs to make a living wage…I know when I was in my working years, if they would have cut my hours to 30, I’d have had to have 2 jobs. Just simple math.

  • Finetime71

    Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins. There is no such thing really as a conservative woman. There are plenty of subservient women. Conservative men wake up, look in the mirror, say, ‘Darn, I’m awesome. Their women say yes, and you’re are smart and intellegent, and the bible says you are the head of the house and I must abide by your every command.

    • Will

      Setting aside the incredible sexism of you daring to tell women that they cannot be conservative, its more than a little bit ironic that in your riff about intelligence you misspelled the words there and you.

    • ohioan123

      You sound jealous of men, typical anti-male liberal.

      • Finetime71

        You are too funny. Think about this the next time you tell a female how to vote because they don’t understand politics.

  • GraceD

    I guess I missed something. What was the bill that is going to help women? (and all those of both genders, that are struggling?)
    I sure do not see how repealing the ACA will help anybody?
    Minimum wage refusal helps who?
    Lack of an immigration policy, splits family’s?

    Who do these GOP “token” women think they are fooling? The same crowd that always have blindly followered the republican platform mantra? Maybe.

    • ohioan123

      Angry, hateful liberal women are disgusting.

  • ohioan123

    First Female Hispanic Governor is Republican;
    First Female Indian Governor is Republican;
    Republicans have more female governors than Democrats.

    Liberal women on the other hand, are selfish, inward-thinking, everything is about them. They’re small-minded, small-thinking and they don’t care about the rest of the country, its only about them.

    • Perry Logan

      A stark case of projection, my friend. Conservatives are the ones who love guns, love wars, love to screw over the poor, and want to force women to have babies–remember?

  • Beatrice Pryor

    Since liberty enables the freedom to fail, it is rather common that the results from our own use of liberty leave us unsatisfied.

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