Kentucky state Reps. Joni Jenkins and Mary Lou Marzian are highlighting the effects of the federal government shutdown on women.
The two Democrats were in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with lawmakers and hope Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will keep those adverse impacts in mind as potential negotiations begin.
“Certainly the furloughing of employees—half of those or more are going to be single females who are heads of families—and I don't know how many of your listeners can go without paycheck for a day, a week or possibly longer,” said Jenkins, whose district covers parts of western Jefferson County. “That money not coming into our communities is going to trickle down to all sorts of businesses.”
Beyond federal workers there is growing concern about social services that could be impacted.
Almost 9 million new mothers and young children rely on programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC. But federal officials have warned funding for WIC could run out in the next week or so.
Observers expect the shutdown to last at least that long even as President Obama is inviting congressional leaders, including McConnell, to the White House Wednesday afternoon to possibly negotiate.
Marzian says the shutdown is a disaster for women on a number of fronts and low-income mothers in particular, adding the blame should be on Tea Party-backed Republicans in the House.
“It's going to really effect women being able to feed their families and pay their rent as these programs run out of money in the next weeks,” she says. “But the Tea Party and these right-wing Republicans care nothing about women and children. They only care about themselves and pushing their agenda forward. However, they care about fetuses but once you’re here you’re on your own.”
Last year, over 132,000 pregnant women and new mothers in Kentucky received nutrition assistance through WIC programs for their young children.
Other reports show a small number of Head Start programs would be immediately impacted by the shutdown, which help children with early education. Defenders of that program point out that working-class mother schedules their job around those classes and will have to either find alternative childcare or skip work.
“These ideologues in Washington are hurting every state that depends on this money to help our most vulnerable citizens,” Marzian says. “I want to ask these people that claim to be Christians, is this what Jesus would do? Shut down government and allow women and children to suffer?”
Republicans have mainly shot back by criticizing Senate Democrats and the Obama administration for failing to negotiate.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., slammed the optics of turning away World War II veterans from their national memorial this morning. And many point out the GOP-controlled House has a plan to fund piecemeal parts of the federal government, including veterans' benefits.
The shutdown is already its effect on military bases in Kentucky, with an untold number of civilian workers at Ft. Knox being sent home.
While in Washington Marzian and Jenkins did have a chance to meet with Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth to discuss the shutdown's effects, but the two felt they were given a “cold” response by McConnell's staff.
From Jenkins' Twitter:
McConnell's office did not respond to our request for comment. But speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, the GOP leader repeated claims that the shutdown is the creation of Senate Democrats who have rejected at least four House proposals.
“These were fair things to ask for. They were reasonable. And if the Democrats who run Washington could have brought themselves to be that sensible, they would have voted to keep the government open,” McConnell said. “But in the end, they got their shutdown, which they apparently think will help them politically. And they held onto their absolutist position on Obamacare—regardless of the consequences for American families.”
The senator's office did announce McConnell is relinquishing his salary for the duration of the shutdown to charity, specifically the Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville.
But Marzian, who represents a part of the city in the state legislature, says she is not impressed given McConnell's stature in Republican leadership.
“Well, he can certainly afford to give up his salary since he's a millionaire,” she says. “Mitch McConnell giving up his salary does not compare to a woman not being able to feed her children. So, good for him but it's not nearly enough.”
McConnell's office tells WFPL due to the pressing nature of the shutdown, the senator was unable to meet with Jenkins and Marzian earlier this week.
McConnell spokeswoman Stephanie Penn says the two were able to meet with a “senior” aide to discuss a number of national defense issues, however.
“The Senator has met with state Rep. Jenkins and state Rep. Marzian in the past and would like to be able to visit with them again in the future,” says Penn.