Today the campaign of Sen. Mitch McConnell launched “Women for Team Mitch” at an event in East Louisville, touting female supporters and his advocacy for women.
McConnell, presumably running against Alison Lundergan Grimes next fall and running far behind among women in recent polls, knows he can’t afford to lag double-digits behind Grimes among this demographic without seriously putting his re-election in jeopardy.
Most of the event was made up of women sharing their personal stories of how McConnell helped them individually, from helping a mother navigate bureaucratic channels to find her kidnapped daughter, to giving a staffer time off work to take care of her daughter with cancer. (McConnell shedding tears in the latter account.)
However, when it came down to policy affecting women, a few details of the event seemed peculiar, if not downright contradictory to his actual voting record.
The press packet handed out by his campaign before the event included this quote by Angela Leet of Jefferson County, vouching for Mitch’s support of the Violence Against Women Act:
“Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act- and continues to advocate for stronger policies to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator.”
You might be surprised to learn that McConnell actually was a co-sponsor of the first version of VAWA proposed in 1991, which died in committee that year. However, by 1993 McConnell had pulled his sponsorship, and he voted against the bill that would become the law of the land in 1994. More recently, McConnell also voted against the re-authorization of VAWA in 2012 and 2013, saying that it “could strip Americans of their constitutional rights.” We’re not sure what those exact rights are, but we assume they belong to men.
In a remarkably bold move this summer, McConnell actually said that he only voted against VAWA this year because it wasn’t strong enough. Besides that statement being so implausible that no one could honestly believe it, McConnell’s opinion was obviously not shared by 100 percent of the female Republican senators who voted for it.
If McConnell’s campaign really wants to tout his support of VAWA, the easiest route to do that would have been to just advise him to, you know, not vote against it repeatedly.
McConnell’s Senate staffer we referred to earlier quite genuinely thanked him for letting her stay at home with her child that was diagnosed with cancer, noting he told her that her position would be waiting for her when she was ready to come back. Women who work for the government or a business employing more than 50 people are afforded such a right to leave work and take care of a sick child — or take care of a newborn child — under federal law, specifically 1993′s Family Medical Leave Act. And yes, Mitch McConnell was one of the few senators to vote against that bill.
McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao spoke about how her husband has secured a large amount of funding for breast cancer research, and fought for legislation and funding for expanded cancer screenings for underprivileged and under-served communities.
But McConnell has also fought hard against “Obamacare,” which he wants to throw out “root and branch.” Some of those roots and branches include the many thousands of free cancer screenings for women in Kentucky, new access to health clinics, the roughly 600,000 new Kentuckians who will now have access to health care insurance with Medicaid expansion and the private exchange (most of whom are women), the new prohibition of insurance companies charging women more than men, and free contraception coverage.
McConnell is also busy giving a bear hug to sequestration, which in Kentucky is cutting off cancer screenings to hundreds of low-income women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, throwing over 800 kids off of Head Start programs, mounting further devastation onto the already steep cuts to child care tax credits for working mothers, and cutting needed funds to help victims of domestic violence.
There was also no mention of McConnell’s votes against the Lilly Ledbetter Act and Paycheck Fairness Act, though former Congresswoman Anne Northup — McConnell campaign surrogate of the day — said that those laws would actually make women “less competitive and attractive” in the workplace. Why? Because employers would be afraid to hire women, since they could get all litigious and stuff for being discriminated against.
Yes, that’s who they sent out in front of reporters to argue their case for women.
McConnell doesn’t have any real chance of winning more votes than Grimes among women next fall, but he needs to at least make the margin somewhat competitive. If he has any chance of doing so, he’ll likely have to bury much of his record on women’s issues under a cloud of misdirection similar to what we saw today. If that doesn’t succeed, he’ll just have to bury Grimes under $70 million of attack ads over the next 15 months so that voters are too busy hating her to care about McConnell’s votes. The latter seems more likely.