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A number of legislative priorities in the Biden Administration appear all but dead, sometimes thanks to a pair of recalcitrant Democratic senators, but overwhelmingly due to Republican opposition.
But during a streamed event this week organized by the National Organization for Women, Nevada’s three Democratic members of the House of Representatives said despite the legislative setbacks, Congress and the Biden administration have also secured significant achievements.
And despite the right’s control of the U.S. Supreme court , there are still ways to maintain freedoms women obtained over decades in a divided Congress, including the right to abortion, the Nevada representatives said.
Given the refusal of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court to block a number of state laws limiting women’s access to care, Democrats want to protect the right legislatively.
“Around the country as fast as they can go… they are trying to take away that right. When you look at the membership of the Supreme Court now, we’re afraid they are right in line with that backwards mentality,” Rep. Dina Titus said.
Titus and fellow Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford and Susie Lee have all signed onto the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation to defend women’s constitutional right to reproductive health care. But without support from Senate Republicans, it’s likely to go nowhere.
“A lot of things pass out of the House and then go to the Senate to die, and this protection of a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions is one of them,” Titus said.
All three Nevada House Democrats also support the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act. The bill requires coverage for abortion care through public health insurance programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as insurance plans for federal employees.
Titus also called on the Democratically controlled Senate to pass the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality Act of 2021, which would eliminate the so called “global gag rule” that prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations who receive U.S. global health assistance from providing legal abortion services.
Tossing a compliment to the other chamber, Titus said Senate Democrats did successfully strip an amendment from annual government funding bills that prohibits people from using Medicaid or other federal health programs to cover abortion services, known as the Hyde Amendment, for the first time in decades.
“There are a number of fronts on which we can fight,” Titus said.
Horsford said the Hyde Amendment should be repealed outright, to prevent it from being included in future budgets.
Horsford said he’s also pushed for the passage of the Black Maternal Health Omnibus Act of 2021, which directs multi-agency efforts to improve maternal health, particularly among racial and ethnic minority groups, veterans, and other vulnerable populations.
In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak passed a bill sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno in 2019, to examine the state’s mortality and morbidity rates among pregnant women and present recommendations to the Legislature.
“We need to codify those measures at the federal level as well,” Horsford said. “It’s about access and it’s about protecting the care people have now.”
Lee highlighted Democratic efforts to provide access to healthcare, including the CARES Act and expansions to Affordable Care Act subsidies.
“Access to abortion is access to essential healthcare,” Lee said.
“What we’ve done with our bills is basically put women front and center in terms of everything we did with economic recovery because we knew they were the hardest hit by the pandemic,” Lee said.
‘It has made a difference’
Women, particularly women of color, bore the brunt of job losses and caregiving challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lee highlighted the American Rescue Plan Act’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit, noting the credit reduced childhood poverty by nearly half. Before the Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin killed attempts to extend it at the end of last year, more than 350,000 Nevada households representing nearly 600,000 children received more than $900 million from expanded child tax credit direct payments.
Families in Nevada’s fourth congressional district, Horsford’s turf, benefited the most from the extended child tax credits in the state. About 167,000 qualified children in the district received nearly $44 million in total payments, according to estimates by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. About, 97% of households in the district benefited from the child tax credit, lifting about 9,700 children out of poverty, according to Horsford’s office.
“Now we have to keep them out of poverty,” Horsford said, pointing to workforce training including the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act, which the House passed early last year and is designed to create nearly one million apprenticeship positions.
Unions built the middle class, said Horsford, before admonishing “attempts by the far-right” to weaken organized labor. Horsford said the House Labor Caucus, of which he is a co-chair, has continued to call on the Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. That legislation, like the apprenticeship measure and other items on the Democratic agenda, has been bottled up by Republicans and the filibuster rule.
Lee emphasized her push for bipartisan solutions to economic issues affecting women, including her Small Business Child Care Investment Act, which Lee sponsored and which would provide qualified non-profit childcare providers equal access to Small Business Administration loans so providers can invest in and expand their operations. Neither that legislation nor a companion measure in the Senate whose sponsors include Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen have made headway in either chamber.
“As we continue to fight to make childcare more affordable we have to make sure we provide those options,” Lee said.
Titus said Democrats need to remind the public about the work done during the pandemic, specifically the American Rescue Plan Act, which passed without a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate in March of 2021. In addition to the child tax credit benefits, the APA also provided Nevada with more than $6.7 billion in federal funds, $500 million of which is now being used to support development of more affordable housing under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s “Home means Nevada” plan.
“That was our agenda, that was the president’s agenda and we need to brag about it,” Titus said. “Not talk about what we didn’t get done, but let’s talk about what we did get done, because it has made a difference.”
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