Posts Tagged ‘congress’

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, AAUW would like to pause to give thanks for the many opportunities and advancements for women and girls in 2012. The full list is available on AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist, but here’s a sampling of what we are thankful for this year:

  • We are thankful for the AAUW states, branches, and coalition partners that made voter education and mobilization a priority as part of the AAUW Action Fund It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign. With your work and commitment, we challenged millennial women to make their voices heard — and they were.
  • We are thankful for the first responders who placed themselves in harm’s way to help during superstorm Sandy. Our hearts continue to go out to those affected by the storm, especially those still suffering weeks later and the communities looking at years of rebuilding and recovery.
  • We are thankful for the record number of women who will serve in the 113th Congress: 20 in the Senate and 78 representatives and three delegates in the House. We are particularly grateful for the states that elected their first female senators — Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin — and the other “firsts”  in the 2012 elections, which broke representation barriers for religion, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
  • (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Moon/Released)We are thankful for the implementation of the requirement that all new health insurance plans must cover — without copays — eight additional women’s preventive care services, including contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and breastfeeding support.
  • We are thankful that the U.S. Olympic Team had more female athletes than male athletes for the first time in history, and we are thankful that women won 29 of the U.S. teams’ 46 gold medals. We are also thankful that 16-year-old Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win a gold medal in the individual all-around gymnastics competition.
  • We are thankful for AAUW’s new research report, Graduating to a Pay Gap, which uses the latest nationally representative data to explore the earnings difference between women and men college graduates who are working full time one year after graduation. It also examines one immediate effect that the pay gap has on many women: the heavy burden of student loan debt. The report has been featured by Reuters, U.S. News and World Report, and the Washington Post.
  • We are thankful for the Senate-passed, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, which builds on the success of previous reauthorizations, addresses the needs of all victims nationwide, and includes important campus safety provisions. AAUW will continue to pressure the House to agree to this vital reauthorization.
  • We are thankful for the 40th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the landmark legislation that ensures equal opportunity in education for all students. We are also thankful for the release of a report, published by a coalition that AAUW chaired, recognizing this milestone.
  • We are thankful for our stalwart allies on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who introduced legislation to fix the Supreme Court’s problematic decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes.
  • We are thankful that Congress prevented student loan interest rates from doubling over the summer.
  • We are thankful that Connecticut’s paid sick days law went into effect on January 1 and that a similar Seattle law went into effect on September 1.
  • We are thankful for AAUW members and supporters who generously give of their time, talents, and treasures to empower all women and girls to advance their education, increase their economic security, and develop their leadership skills.

Please visit AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist to read the full list of what we are thankful for this year and to sign up for the AAUW Action Network so you can help us advocate for AAUW priority issues and add to this list of advancements next year.

From all of us at AAUW to our more than 150,000 members, donors, and supporters nationwide: Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and a safe and joyful start to your holiday season!

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via Andreas PraefckeThe Obama administration invited leaders of national women’s groups to the White House Tuesday for a conversation on the budget and other issues facing the country. Just a week after the election, AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman was at the table with President Obama; senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council; and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, to discuss AAUW priorities.

The president’s decision to meet with women’s group leaders — and the tone at the meeting itself — reinforced the significance of the role women played in helping to re-elect the president. For AAUW, this high-level, small-group conversation represented an important post-election step in keeping a policy focus on issues critical to women and families.

“AAUW’s advocacy efforts throughout the presidential campaign sought not only to encourage women to vote but also to make clear that their work did not end with the election,” Hallman said. “With their votes, women positioned themselves to be an important and influential voice in the conversations ahead. We hope Tuesday’s meeting at the White House proves to be just the beginning of opportunities for women to be at the table and to be heard.”

AAUW set out immediately following the election to remind the White House and Congress of women’s key role in holding politicians accountable. We will send the Obama administration a list of AAUW priorities for the new term. These include issuing an executive order outlawing federal contractors from retaliating against employees who ask about compensation, requiring federal agencies to conduct Title IX compliance reviews at all institutions receiving federal funds, and working with Congress to pass an inclusive Violence Against Women Act. We outlined many of these priorities in our September 2012 report on the Obama administration.

AAUW also hosted a Twitter campaign to compile recommendations for the president and the new Congress to address on their first days of the upcoming term, and we have educated our members and blog readers to be prepared for sequestration talks in the next month.

“The president sent a message to women Tuesday that he wants to work with us on the issues we care about,” Hallman said. “Now women have to send a message back to the president and Congress that makes our priorities known and says we are ready to work together to improve the lives of women and families. We’re here to make progress — our vote was just the beginning.”

This post was written by AAUW Political Media Coordinator Elizabeth Owens.

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One year after the debt ceiling crisis, Congress and the president again face a series of tough decisions regarding federal spending and deficit reduction. With so much at stake in this debate, we’ll be breaking down the details of the impending across-the-board cuts, also known as sequestration. Check back every Wednesday through October 10 for new posts, and catch up on Budget 101 by reading the lessons from the past few weeks.

The basic premise of the social safety net is that help is available when people are most in need. That’s why Medicaid enrollment expands when we’re in an economic recession — because more people meet the low-income eligibility requirements, which means that more people need assistance obtaining health care. The same thing happens with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. More people qualify for SNAP during recessions because more people struggle to put food on the table due to their lower incomes.

That’s also why one of the first actions Congress took when the economic crisis began was to create a temporary expansion of the unemployment insurance program that would provide additional weeks of benefits. In a normal economy, unemployment insurance — in the form of weekly checks — would be available for up to 26 weeks to people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. But as the unemployment rate ticked up, lawmakers realized that the need was greater, which meant the social safety net had to adjust to fit the need. So in 2008, they created a program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which allows people to receive anywhere from 14 to 47 additional weeks of benefits depending on their state’s unemployment rate. A resident of a state with a higher unemployment rate would be eligible for more weeks of benefits.

Now, more than four years since that first extension, we are still dealing with a chronically high unemployment rate. Moreover, 40 percent of those who are unemployed have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer, which means that they still need unemployment insurance beyond the initial 26 weeks. And at the same time, our country is facing a series of tax and budget changes that are slated to take effect at the beginning of January 2013 and are likely to impact the day-to-day lives of most Americans. One of the changes is the expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The question, though, is whether lawmakers will once again extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program or let it expire.

It’s a politically difficult decision to make because these benefits are real and tangible. In 2010 and 2011, the average weekly unemployment benefit was $300. That check could cover your utility bill, a grocery store trip, or an emergency car repair so you can make it to your next job interview.

In addition, unemployment insurance helps not only the recipient but also our economy as a whole. According to an analysis by the financial research organization Moody’s Analytics, for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance, $1.61 goes back into the U.S. economy, which makes unemployment insurance the most successful form of government stimulus. That’s because, as a Moody’s researcher told NPR, people who receive unemployment benefits tend to spend the money rather than save it, since the point of unemployment insurance is to replace a person’s lost income so she or he can still buy the necessities. Such consumer spending boosts economic growth and demand. You could correctly argue that unemployment insurance creates jobs.

Yet, as our Budget 101 series has shown thus far, these decisions are not so simple. The federal government has been footing the bill for the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for more than four years, and with much attention focused on reducing the U.S. budget deficit, it’s a tough climate in which to argue that unemployment benefits should be extended further. In truth, these decisions are never simple, but this time, with the expiration of unemployment insurance coming at the same time as many other fiscal decisions, it is even more difficult.

Check back on October 10 for our next Budget 101 post, which will focus on upcoming automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, and the projected impact of those cuts on women and families, education, and defense spending.

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One year after the debt ceiling crisis, Congress and the president again face a series of tough decisions regarding federal spending and deficit reduction. With so much at stake in this debate, we’ll be breaking down the details of the impending across-the-board cuts, also known as sequestration. Check back every Wednesday through October 10 for new posts, and catch up on Budget 101 by reading last week’s lesson.

Tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, commonly known as the Bush tax cuts because they were passed during George W. Bush’s presidency, are set to expire in January 2013. When these tax cuts were passed, proponents argued that Americans with more take-home income would spend more money and therefore stimulate economic growth. However, studies of the tax cuts have found that they added to the federal deficit and contributed to a trend of concentrating wealth among the richest Americans.

Also in January, $500 billion in across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending — evenly split between security and non-defense programs — will go into effect and run through 2021. These automatic cuts are known as sequestration. If these drastic spending cuts are made and the tax rates return to their higher year-2000 levels, the deficit over the next 10 years is projected to increase by $2.9 trillion. If elected officials prevent sequestration and extend all of the tax cuts in addition to extending emergency unemployment insurance the deficit is projected to increase an additional $10.7 trillion through 2021.

Policy makers have considered a few options for the tax cuts:

  • Extend the reduced tax rates for individuals who earn less than $200,000 and for couples filing jointly below who earn less than $250,000. For the 2.5 million households whose incomes are over that threshold, tax rates would increase to between 36 percent and 39.6 percent — the same rates paid in 2000.
  • Extend the tax cuts for those who earn less than $1 million.
  • Extend all of the Bush tax cuts for one year.

AAUW advocates for making smart choices about federal spending and the growing deficit. Extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for individuals who earn up to $200,000 and couples who earn up to $250,000 would protect the middle class while increasing government revenue to pay down the deficit and protect important programs. The extension of all tax cuts would not advance our AAUW priorities, including expanding access to higher education, closing the achievement gap among elementary and secondary students, promoting career and technical education, expanding affordable health care, and advocating for gender equity in employment and education.

Check back on September 26 for the next post in our Budget 101 series, a primer on payroll tax cuts.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Madeline Shepherd.

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One year after the debt ceiling crisis, Congress and the president again are facing a series of tough decisions regarding federal spending and deficit reduction. With so much at stake in this debate, we’ll be breaking down the details of the impending across-the-board cuts, also known as sequestration. Check back every Wednesday through October 10 for new posts.

Each year, the federal government collects and spends money, which results in a balanced budget, a deficit, or a surplus depending on how much comes in and how much goes out. Between 1970 and 2009, the federal government had a budget surplus just four times — in successive years from 1998 to 2001. In all other years, the disparity between income and spending resulted in deficits. Due to several factors, including defense spending, tax cuts, and relief for the recession, the federal debt as compared with the nation’s gross domestic product this year will reach the highest point since shortly after World War II.

By law, Congress has to act every year to raise the limit of the federal debt — also known as the debt ceiling — but in 2011, the government was forced to the brink of a shutdown because lawmakers could not agree on how to reduce the long-term deficit by cutting spending, increasing revenue, or both. Members of Congress reached an agreement in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which created, among other things, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — the “super committee” — for the purpose of fashioning a bipartisan agreement to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

The leadership of the House and Senate chose 12 members from both chambers and both parties to serve on the super committee. To motivate the members to reach a long-term deficit reduction plan, the Budget Control Act also included a time-sensitive threat: If the committee failed to come up with a solution by November 23, 2011, $500 billion in across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending — evenly split between security and non-defense programs — would go into effect in January 2013 and run through 2021. These automatic cuts are known as sequestration. The super committee failed to achieve its goal, and sequestration is now on the horizon. The first cuts are expected in January 2013, and $109.3 billion in cuts will occur each year between 2013 and 2021. January 2013 will also bring the expiration of what are known as the Bush tax cuts — changes to the U.S. tax code that were passed in 2001 and 2003.

As of September 4, 2012, the deficit stood at $16 trillion. If no changes are made to current law — if sequestration takes effect and tax rates are increased to return to their year-2000 levels — $2.9 trillion will be added to the deficit over the next decade. If officials prevent sequestration’s cuts and still keep tax rates at historically low levels, the deficit is projected to grow by an additional $10.7 trillion by 2021.So while it may sound appealing to slash government programs and keep tax rates low, doing so would actually not balance the budget — it would instead damage critical programs that serve women, seniors, students, and working families.

Over the next four weeks, we will examine and explain the individual tax cuts that are up for expiration as well as the effect of sequestration on different women’s issues that AAUW prioritizes in our Public Policy Program. Just a few of the federal programs that could be affected by the cuts are Social Security, Pell Grants, and Medicare. AAUW supports a balanced approach to reducing the federal deficit and protecting funds that assist disadvantaged communities, including programs that benefit gender equity in education and other areas. Come back next week to read more about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, their effect on the American public and the federal deficit, and policy alternatives that lawmakers have suggested.

This blog post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Madeline Shepherd.

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Along with our exciting Fall issue, Outlook is rolling out a brand-new digital edition of the magazine. It’s sleek, it’s modern, and it’s easy to use. And now, for the first time, AAUW members have the option to get the digital edition of Outlook magazine delivered to their inboxes.

We know that many of you are interested in going green, and most of you are doing more of your reading online. So we hope you’ll consider helping us save some trees and stamps by opting in to a digital-only subscription. All it takes is an AAUW membership, an e-mail address, and an Internet connection. You don’t have to be tech savvy to enjoy this new benefit, and you can switch your subscription back to print-only anytime.

You can check out the digital edition by reading the new Fall Outlook online now. This issue is dedicated to It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard, our ambitious voter turnout and education effort. Everyone can read the free preview feature about what AAUW volunteers around the country are doing to get out the women’s vote. And AAUW members can read on to find out about the insidious voter-identification laws that are threatening enfranchisement for older women and other groups, how women candidates could make significant gains in congressional seats in the upcoming election, and why AAUW is focusing on turning out the young women’s vote.

You’ll find plenty of inspiration and resources to get involved yourself. Election Day is fast approaching, but it’s not too late to hold a voter registration drive or reach out online! Read this issue of Outlook (look out for it in your mailbox soon!) and get motivated to make women’s voices heard this election.

Not a subscriber? Change that today!

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This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Madeline Shepherd.

On Monday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions released a report summarizing their two-year investigation into for-profit colleges. The report analyzed the schools’ federal funding streams and student outcomes. The executive summary notes that nontraditional students often benefit from the types of credentialing that for-profit schools offer because of the programs’ flexible scheduling, targeted career and technical training, and the availability of online courses. However, as Committee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) points out, many students at for-profit institutions borrow money from the federal government and default on the loans. Because federal financial aid is supported by taxpayer money, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that the funds are not being used improperly, he says.

Merrimack College in North Andover, MA on September 23, 2010.The report suggests that the drive to turn a profit often comes at the expense of the students, who experience higher-than-average tuition and fees only to graduate with degrees that offer lower earning potential compared with their peers at public or nonprofit institutions. Students at for-profit schools are also more likely to leave the programs before completion and default on student loans.

Harkin argues that the federal student aid allotted to for-profit colleges, including loans and Pell Grants, is reason enough for Congress to step in and help for-profit schools better align their incentives so that their financial success correlates with the success of their students and graduates. The for-profit schools examined by the HELP Committee used 22.4 percent of revenue on marketing and recruitment, kept 19.4 percent as profit, and spent 17.7 percent on instruction.

AAUW has long advocated for access to higher education for traditional and nontraditional students because such opportunities help women obtain financial security and economic independence. However, the prevalence of aggressive marketing and the significant incidence of loan default is cause for concern. If for-profit institutions overburden students with debt and take advantage of taxpayer-supported financial aid while failing to prepare students for the workforce, there is reason for congressional regulation. AAUW was disappointed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s recent ruling that struck down the gainful employment regulations put in place by the U.S. Department of Education. The HELP Committee’s report demonstrates further why federal regulation of this industry is necessary.

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In a complex 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, finding that its requirement that nearly all Americans purchase or carry insurance is permissible under Congress’ taxing authority. This decision allows the Affordable Care Act to stand.

AAUW believes that everyone is entitled to health care that is high-quality, affordable, and easily accessible. Although not perfect by any stretch, the Affordable Care Act includes many reforms that will improve the collective health of the American people. As the law is implemented, it will bring real benefits to American women.

A major benefit will be the coverage of necessary preventive care services. The two leading causes of death for women in America by far are heart disease and cancer — afflictions that can often be prevented if women have access to services such as screenings, immunizations, and educational materials. Beginning August 1, 2012, insurance companies must cover — without co-pays or cost-sharing — preventive health care services such as screenings for cancer, domestic abuse, and gestational diabetes as well as all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive services. After controversy over the inclusion of contraceptives, the Obama administration announced an accommodation for religiously affiliated universities and employers that allows insurers instead of employers and schools to pay for this coverage.

Another advance is the end of “gender-rating” practices. Gender rating is the process by which insurance companies charge men and women different premiums for individually purchased health care plans. A 2008 report found that at age 25, women were charged anywhere from 6 percent to 45 percent more than men for individual market plans; at age 45, women’s monthly premiums ranged from 4 percent to 48 percent higher than men’s monthly premiums. Under the Affordable Care Act, gender rating will be banned for plans offered in both the individual and small-group markets for organizations employing 100 people or fewer. Beginning in 2014, women in these plans will be charged the same rates as men.

Americans cannot continue to refuel our economy as productive members of the workforce if they are sick, saddled with health care costs, or — in the case of women — blatantly discriminated against by their insurance providers. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that these gains won’t be rolled back, but it’s up to all of us to make our voices heard and keep pushing for a health care system that’s equitable to women.


AAUW is working to make sure that the voices of all women are heard regarding health care and much more. The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign is making an unprecedented investment in turning out women voters. AAUW is educating, engaging, and registering millennial (ages 18–30) women voters across the country. Together, we’ll ensure that women understand what’s at stake in 2012 and know how to use their voices and their votes to influence the election and protect women’s health care gains!

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The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) is a commonsense bill that would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in current law. The bill takes meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. It would also bar retaliation against employees who disclose their own wages. Without this bill, employers can penalize and even fire workers for talking about their salaries. This egregious practice leaves employees in the dark and prevents them from finding out about pay discrimination in the workplace.

AAUW and fair-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, the author of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, have been working hard to get the word out on Capitol Hill. Ledbetter even gave AAUW and Lisa Maatz, our director of public policy and government relations, a shout-out during her appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on Monday night.

Watch the clip below, read about last week’s House vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and stay tuned to find out more about how the Senate vote turns out.

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College women probably don’t give much thought to the paychecks they’ll earn after graduation.

That’s not to say they don’t want to get paid or that they don’t want to make good money — they do. Who doesn’t want to earn a salary equal to what her work is worth? But what probably isn’t on most students’ radars, however, is how their paychecks will stack up against what their male classmates earn.

At this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) — May 31–June 2 at the University of Maryland, College Park — we intend to put paycheck fairness on college women’s radars. And who better to highlight this critical issue than Lilly Ledbetter, the face of pay equity, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the conference.

After finding out that Goodyear shortchanged her for nearly two decades by paying her less than her male colleagues, Ledbetter took her fight all the way to the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court and then into the halls of Congress. She eventually became the namesake for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This inspiring story of perseverance and the pursuit of fairness will fit right in at a conference that encourages women student leaders to never settle for less than what they are worth.

Lilly Ledbetter

But we’re not the only ones who think that paycheck fairness is an issue worth talking about. In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama focused public attention on pay discrepancies between men and women. His remarks fly in the face of recent sunshine-and-rainbows reports that hail the end of gender-based pay discrimination. But we know that the wage gap is alive and well. According to AAUW’s 2007 report Behind the Pay Gap, just one year after college graduation, women earned only 80 percent of what their male counterparts made. Ten years later, women fell further behind, earning only 69 percent of what men earned. AAUW’s 2012 guide The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap tells a similar story with updated, state-by-state data.

If that doesn’t get college women thinking about their future paychecks, what will? Perhaps an opportunity to meet Ledbetter, who puts a face to these facts.

Check out Ledbetter’s new book, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, to find out more about her battles for fair pay. Or hold out until the conference, where she will be signing books.

NCCWSL registration is open until May 16. Early-bird registration ends today, April 13. Students, register now!

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