Shades of Stokely Carmichael: Where Is the Female Leadership in the Health Reform Summit?

Rebecca Sive

How many women leaders were invited to the health care summit? Girls, hold your breath. Grand total: four.  That’s right, four, one of whom is Nancy Pelosi. So, actually, three, count ‘em, three other women members of Congress (total membership: 535 people), including, count her, one, female U.S. Senator

So, like any good policy wonk, first thing this morning, as always, was my coffee and skimming the Washington Post Politics Morning Edition. I was particularly eager to read the Post this morning since, after all the healthcare hullabaloo of the last year, today is: White House Health Summit Day.

The relevant Washington Post article turned-out to be: Democrats Looking Past Summit to Final Talks.”

The relevant article attachment was: “Guest List,” which connects you to an AP story: Who’s Invited to the Healthcare Summit.”

Turns out, 38 people were invited. But who, you ask?

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Well, of course, if you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll be wondering how many women were invited. Girls, hold your breath. Here’s your answer, grand total: four.

That’s right, four, one of whom is Nancy Pelosi. So, three, count ‘em, three other women members of Congress (total membership: 535 people), including one, count her, one, woman U.S. Senator. That would be Patty Murray.

Wait, it gets better: The total number of women invited by the White House, apart from Nancy Pelosi, 0. Yes, that’s right: 0.

The White House invitation approach; here it is, according to the AP, “The White House invited 22 high-ranking lawmakers and also asked each of the top four congressional leaders to designate four more lawmakers for invitations.”

So, here’s what I saw when I looked at the White House guest list some more: The “lawmakers invited by the White House,” are all either in Senate or House leadership, chair committees, or are a “ranking member” of a committee, with one exception.

Guess what, he’s a guy too: Senator Chris Dodd, member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and so unpopular in his home state he’s being forced to retire.

Other members of that Senate committee? Well, for starters, there’s Barbara Mikulski, the third ranking member after Sen Dodd, and then there’s Senator Patty Murray, fifth ranking member.

But neither Mikulski nor Murray were invited by the White House, even in light of the fact that the issue of women’s health, not to say, abortion rights, is front and center in the debate over healthcare reform legislation.

Murray had to wait to get invited, according to the AP, by “the House and Senate leadership,” along with one other pro-choice Democratic woman, that’s right, one other– Rep. Louis Slaughter.

According to the published reports I can find at this hour (10am CST), the final chapter in this sorry saga was written late yesterday when John Boehner requested that the White House invite Rep. Bart Stupak, he of the infamous “Stupak Amendment.”

Apparently, when the White House was asked about Rep. Boehner’s request, “…the [unnamed White House] official said, “If they want Stupak to come, they can bring him.”

Back-in-the-day, some of us got “fired up and ready to go,” in our case, to fight for women’s reproductive rights, because we heard stuff like this: “The proper position of women in SNCC, (the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, a leading civil rights organization of the 1960’s civil rights movement) is prone.” Some say Stokely Carmichael spoke in jest, but what matter?

This all feels like “déjà vu all over again,”* just in a different venue.

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