In a desperate attempt to solve an optics problem, Republicans cave, allowing women on the Judiciary Committee for the first time ever.
Republicans have never, in their entire history, appointed even one woman to the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.
"It's a lot of work. Maybe they don’t want to do it," was the response from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) when asked last summer about the lack of women on the committee he chaired.
But months after the all-male GOP panel approved the nomination of alleged attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — during which Republicans actually hired a woman to ask questions for them, thinking it would help their poor optics — the GOP has been sufficiently shamed into appointing not one but two women to the committee.
"The appointments solve a longstanding optics problem for Republicans," notes Politico, adding that four of the nine Democrats on the committee last year were women. Of the 11 Republicans on the committee, exactly zero of them were women.
That 202-year streak of zero Republican women on the committee now comes to an end, but that does not mean there will be any ideological changes from the right side of the aisle. The two new additions to the committee are Tennessee's newly elected Marsha Blackburn and Iowa's Joni Ernst — two of the most fringe, anti-woman, anti-family Republicans in Congress.
Blackburn spent eight years in the House, repeatedly voting to repeal the health care law that guarantees protections to anyone with a pre-existing condition. But as Politico notes, she "is perhaps best known for leading a special House panel that investigated since-discredited charges that Planned Parenthood was profiting from the sale of tissue obtained from abortions."
Blackburn bragged during her Senate campaign about her role on the committee, which wasted millions of taxpayer dollars investigating a fraudulent video deceptively edited to attack women's access to health care.
Ernst has a history of attacks on women's health care and reproductive rights. She too has repeatedly tried to defund Planned Parenthood and even praised a recent draconian abortion ban in Iowa as "important step forward." As a state senator in Iowa, Ernst supported a so-called "personhood" bill to ban all abortions and even some types of birth control. During her U.S. Senate campaign in 2014, she said she would support a federal bill to do the same.
Ernst also voted to confirm alleged sexual predator Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court for life.
Ernst joins the Judiciary Committee as she faces a potentially tough 2020 re-election battle. Called a "Trump enabler" by a conservative columnist, Ernst is running in an Iowa that could be turning more blue. In the 2018 midterms, Iowans ousted two of the state's three Republican House members, replacing them with Democrats.
Simply adding women to the Judiciary Committee does little to assuage the concerns of those who care about women and families.
"Just because a woman serves in a particular role doesn’t mean that person exemplifies values that are going to be best for women and families in this country," Adrienne Kimmell, vice president of communications and strategic research at NARAL, told Politico.
By placing Blackburn and Ernst on this committee, Republicans prove once again that they care more about the optics of the political situation than working toward what is best for women and families.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.