Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gathered yesterday with Democratic leaders and supporters to celebrate the successful completion of her agenda for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress. Feminists joined Speaker Pelosi, rejoicing in the fact that five out of the six bills passed in the House in the past week directly impact women.
On Tuesday, January 9, the House voted to adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, a battle that has long been the mission of four remarkable women known as the “Jersey Girls.” In the Winter 2004 issue of Ms. magazine, the Jersey Girls were honored as four of the “Women of the Year” for tirelessly pressuring President Bush into forming the independent 9/11 Commission.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 was passed on Wednesday, January 10, increasing the minimum wage from $5.15-an-hour to $7.25-an-hour by 2009. According to the Economic Policy Institute, women comprise 59 percent of the workers who will benefit from the increase. The House also voted to have the bill cover the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, an American territory that has historically been excluded from US minimum wage and immigration laws. The Islands were featured in an investigative report in the Spring 2006 issue of Ms., where Rebecca Claren explored the Islands’ collaboration with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to keep wages low and labor policies flimsy in order to take advantage of the cheap, mostly female, immigrant workforce that manufactures garments boasting a “Made in the US” label.
On Thursday, January 11, the House voted to expand governmental support of research on embryonic stem cells. Stem cells remain an issue that affects women, as it is so closely tied to debates around abortion and women’s reproductive freedom.
The House also passed a bill to allow the US government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for seniors. Older women on Medicare tend to have smaller pensions than men and are more likely to be dependent on social security. Every out-of-pocket expense for older women hits harder than for older men, and a reduction in price will help reduce their financial burdens.
Finally, the College Student Relief Act of 2007 passed in the House on Wednesday, January 17 that will reduce interest rates for student borrowers. Not only do female outnumber male students in higher education, but more women borrow money for student loans than men. According to the Student Borrower’s Statistics Report, 56 percent of student loans are issued to women.
To round-out Speaker Pelosi’s six-item agenda, the House passed yesterday a bill to end subsidies for large oil companies and increase the US’s investment in renewable energy.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal said of the House’s progress in the past week, “Women leaders across the nation are marveling at the rapid change in direction that is being led by Speaker Pelosi. The first woman and self-identified feminist Speaker of the House is making feminists everywhere very proud.”
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