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The Senate is Too Busy to Help Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Fight Global Violence Against Women

October 3, 2010

Secretary Clinton has worked hard to make women’s rights a key aspect of U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy. She has repeatedly noted the link between the status of women and governments which have a tendency to be repressive and authoritarian. She understands that the status of women can actually impact national security.

She has worked hard to promote women’s economic and social development throughout the world. There is more to fighting terrorism and creating stable democracies than dropping bombs via remote controlled predator drones. In fact, many sociologist, psychologists and world health experts will tell you that war and armed conflict always have a disproportionate impact on women and children, often in ways that are difficult for us to sometimes appreciate here in the U.S. This is something we rarely consider as we plan and debate whether this or that country should be the focus of our next military intervention.


Over at Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin has a post up about how last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was set to vote on a bill that would have vastly increased the capability of the U.S. government to support the goal of ending violence against women throughout the world. But the Senate was too busy getting ready to leave to campaign for the upcoming midterm elections. Clearly, women’s issues are not a priority. In addition, once again abortion has taken over the debate:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was set to vote yesterday on a bill to drastically expand U.S. government support to end violence against women around the world. Before that could happen, however, there was to be a debate over GOP attempts to add broad new restrictions on government funding for abortions.

But neither the debate nor the vote happened. The meeting was cancelled because too many senators were out campaigning.

“We can’t get a quorum [to hold the meeting] because Senator Boxer has a debate, Senator Feingold is not here, and some Republicans have a caucus,” Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), told The Cable.

Ironically, Boxer has spoken out forcefully for the legislation, called the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), at past meetings. But her absence Wednesday contributed to a delay that will push consideration of the bill until after the Nov. 2 midterm elections and probably until next year, when the political makeup of the Senate will have changed dramatically.

The legislation would give expansive new authorities to the State Department and the Defense Department to fund all types of organizations that are working to combat violence against women and girls in various countries.

This issue is a key priority of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and it constitutes a rampant problem throughout the world. In Congo, for example, U.N. peacekeepers have been completely unable to stop widespread rape by warring militias.

But the bill cannot come to a vote until committee members debate a Republican amendment prohibiting any organization receiving U.S. government funds from performing or promoting abortions in any way, even with money obtained from other sources.

[snip]

If the bill had been approved by the committee Wednesday, it could have been passed by the full Senate. Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are sponsors of the bill, meaning that even if Casey voted no, Democrats could gather the 60 votes needed to close debate and approve the bill.

But since that is now impossible this year, passing the bill is expected to become even more challenging following the midterm elections, when more Republicans are expected to be in the Senate and on the SFRC. When senators return next year, they may have to make further concessions to Wicker and others on the abortion issue in order to get enough votes. Or they may just abandon their attempts to pass new laws to protect women from violence altogether.

What’s clear is that the abortion issue needs to be resolved before the bill can move forward. “Seems to me that we should solve this issue first, because there a lot of good things in this bill that I support,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

By not showing up for Wednesday’s meeting, pro-choice and pro-women advocates like Boxer and Feingold may have assured that this will not happen…


Sometimes when I read articles which quote current and former scions of the foreign policy establishment saying that while Secretary Clinton is a good SOS, she’s not on par with the likes of Kissinger or Baker, I can’t help but wonder if they look down on her focus on women’s issues. Most, if not all, of the people quoted are men like Leslie Gelb, Aaron David Miller or worse, anonymous sources. Secretary Clinton has also been pretty much the lone voice in this administration advocating for gay rights internationally, openly condemning nations who use draconian methods to punish gay men and lesbians. Now if only she could prod President Obama to do the same here at home.

After the article by Josh Rogin appeared on the Foreign Policy website, John Kerry said he will raise the issue again during the November lame duck session, but Republicans are planning to block any attempted passage of the bill unless the Democrats can demonstrate that the money for it will be offset with deficit reduction in another area. And then there is the effort, not just from the GOP but also conservative Democrats, to hold up the bill over theire concerns about funds being used to provide abortion (and other reproductive health services like family planning). This is preposterous. The GOP are totally selective in their fiscal conservativism. If this bill involved throwing more money for predator drones or bombing Iran, we’d have had the money yesterday with no demand for offsets.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. PCFS permalink
    October 3, 2010 10:43 am

    Preposterous indeed and very sad. Thanks for the article Stacy. I hope all will read this today.

  2. RickG permalink
    October 3, 2010 10:44 am

    I have to say, I love this website. I enjoy how you not only highlight Clinton’s daily meetings but also how you take the time to discuss issues that may not be on the MSM radar. I also appreciate how you are willing to offer some constructive criticism at times like with the Blackwater post below. This makes this blog less of a fan site and more of a serious foreign policy one and I see that you are linked to on places like Politico, Laura Rozen which just proves that.

    Ok, back to lurking for now!🙂

    • October 3, 2010 11:14 am

      Thanks Rick, that’s very nice of you to say. You don’t have to lurk btw.

  3. Lulu permalink
    October 3, 2010 11:12 am

    Really great post Stacy I hadn’t seen this. I have to say I think you are right about how some of the more condescending comments about Hillary Clinton’s performance at State may be due to her emphasis on women. I never really noticed it but they ARE all (older) men that are quoted! Not that men can’t be interested in women’s rights they certainly can but Gelb and the CFR bunch are pretty traditional in their view of the world.

  4. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    October 3, 2010 11:14 am

    It’s this sort of story that makes me want to tear my hair out. Thr rape itself is only the beginning of the trauama. Depending on the culture, women who have been brutually raped in the context of war may be stoned, forced to marry their rapist, or ostracized, and chidren born from rape may be abandoned by their families and/or left to die. And yet aid is held up by our government because some of the dollars might be devoted to terminating these forced pregnancies? This reflects a disturbing trend within the Repulican party. An increasing number of GOP candidates — especially ones receiving heavy support from the Tea Party movement — not only oppose abortion, but want to bar women who have been victims of rape or
    incest from having access to the procedure. They cite chapter and verse of Deuteronomy ad justification for these ludicrous perversions of Old Testament morality. What’s next? Are they suggesting we stone to death women who are raped outside city limits while sparing those raped within city limits? Force victims to marry
    their rapists? It’s all right there in Deuteronomy, so it must be God’s law, right? Really?!

    • October 3, 2010 11:30 am

      @Carolyn- I agree. Not only is it a bit of cultural imperialism on our part but it’s a gross violation of the spirit of Church and State. The GOP over the years have essentially held up legislation which deals with social issues like abortion, family planning, gay rights etc. both in this country and at the UN (regarding the US signing onto certain treaties) due to their purely religious opposition to certain things. They have a right to believe what they want but at what point does the imposition of their particular religious beliefs conflict with other people’s choices, not to mention other people’s religious/spiritual beliefs? It’s interesting that there is so much advocacy for children while they are in the womb, then once they are out, it’s pretty much “screw you, you’re on your own.” Then add to that their view that the poor, including apparently poor children, are undeserving of social aid and I am having a hard time seeing the Jesus-like compassion in all of this.

      I keep waiting for moderate people to realize that the Tea Party (and GOP) has some very draconian views which show a total lack of empathy and compassion for people in different circumstances than perhaps they can relate to. That these people have claimed the moral high ground by labeling themselves religious conservatives is truly incredible- they think nothing of supporting the view that a 14 year old who has been gang-raped in the Congo should have to go through with the pregnancy irrespective of any harm to her physical or mental health, let alone that of the child.

      Also, I am so tired of GOP hypocrisy when it comes to morality. The whole time they were going after Clinton a large number of them were screwing around while laying on a heap of moral sanctimony- but it’s all ok because they asked for God’s forgiveness- once they were found out that is.

      Jim DeMint has just said gay people and get this- unmarried women who have extramarital sex with their boyfriends- shouldn’t be teaching in public schools. But I guess unmarried men who have sex with their girlfriends(but definitely not their boyfriends!) can be teachers? I can’t help but think this guy has some major skeletons in his closet- I mean, who thinks these things let alone says them outloud?!?

  5. HillaryFan permalink
    October 3, 2010 12:43 pm

    This is enraging. Barbara Boxer should be ashamed as should Feingold.

    Thanks for posting this.

    On another topic, photo bomb today? No pressure!🙂

    • October 3, 2010 1:21 pm

      Actually HF, I am doing my photo search now so it will take a while before I post the photo bomb. Check back later in the afternoon-

      Thanks!

  6. October 3, 2010 8:09 pm

    I believe Feingold is still surprisingly behind his GOP opponent in the polls. We’ll know his fate next month.

    About 70,000 women die globally every year from unsafe abortions (nobody of course knows exactly how many deaths occur), primarily in developing nations. And millions suffer disabilities from these unsafe abortions. They are desperate to end their pregnancies for reasons that we, in our privileged US lives, cannot begin to understand. Being anti-choice for American women is one thing, but to be anti-choice internationally is even more tragic IMHO.

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