GOP congressman hosts summit to teach women gardening and weight loss


This is not the right way to do outreach to women voters.

Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis is "excited" to announce a new opportunity for women in Florida's 12th Congressional District: a summit just for them! The congressman's first "annual" summit will feature "relevant topics" for women "that have a direct impact on their lives."

Like gardening. And weight loss. And no, he's not kidding.

If this is Bilirakis' attempt to appeal to women voters, he might want to reconsider. While the women of his district might appreciate this opportunity — it comes with a free lunch, after all — they might be more grateful if his record on issues that really do impact their lives were not quite so disastrous.


Bilirakis is a "staunch opponent of Obamacare," for example. Not only is the health care law supported by a majority of Americans, but is has especially benefited women by making their basic health care, including contraceptive care, more accessible and affordable.

He objects to that particular part of Obamacare, however, and has proudly cosponsored and voted for several pieces of legislation to block women's access to such care.

And while it might not be as "relevant" to women as gardening, at least according to Bilirakis, he voted several times against reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP, which provides access to health care for children of low-income families.

Bilirakis' summit offers a session on "how to leverage the power of social media," but there's no session on how to get health care for your sick child if your congressman votes to get rid of it.

There's also a summit on financial planning for women, even though Bilirakis voted against an equal pay bill back in 2007 and against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Maybe that's why women in his district need the extra financial planning help — to figure out how to make their smaller paychecks go further.

Bilirakis also opposes marriage equality. And he voted against the Violence Against Women Act. And against paid parental leave for federal workers.

All of those issues certainly affect the women of Florida's 12th, but instead of having the support of their congressman, they'll have to make do with a session on "achieving work/life balance."

Bilirakis has had plenty of opportunities, since he was elected to Congress in 2006, to let women know he cares about issues that affect their lives. Instead, he's consistently voted to let them know he couldn't care less. And no free summit — even with lunch included — can make up for that.