Breast-Feeding on Capitol Hill

What Women Really Think
Nov. 19 2010 5:31 PM

Breast-Feeding on Capitol Hill

In a recent blog post about breast-feeding in the Capitol, Rachel Campos-Duffy, wife of Sean Duffy, the reality-TV-star-turned-Republican-congressman, inadvertently highlighted the hypocrisy at the heart of the Mama Grizzly movement. On the first day of her husband's congressional freshman orientation, Campos-Duffy took a break from all the forums and lectures to feed her 7-month-old daughter and was delighted to find a designated "nursing room" in the bowels of the Capitol building. In her post, titled "Breast-Feeding Prompts Bipartisan Moment," she praises the speaker of the House for playing a pivotal role in setting up the room. Campos-Duffy writes: "Before the room existed, nursing moms brought their own pumps and extension cords and would lock themselves in bathroom stalls and other places in search of an electrical outlet and a little privacy. Now, thanks to Pelosi, moms have a clean, private space to pump or nurse."

While Campos-Duffy paints this incident as a rare glimmer of political unity, there is nothing bipartisan about it at all. After years of GOP leadership, a progressive Democratic woman took the initiative to use government funds to better accommodate new mothers and transform Congress into a more family-friendly work environment. In contrast, from heath care and nutrition to education and child care assistance, conservatives have long shown a perverse eagerness to dismantle and otherwise oppose programs that directly benefit women and families-to trumpet family values at the expense of actual families. Just this past Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked debate of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that would have aided women in discovering gender-based wage disparities. That it was a Democrat who fought for a congressional nursing room is no coincidence.

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As the Tea Party and its mantra of drastically limited government further infiltrate the ranks of the GOP establishment, this antipathy toward family-friendly policies will only deepen. Campos-Duffy’s husband is himself part of this new batch of Tea Party-backed conservatives dispatched to D.C. to slash funding for extraneous government programs. (One of his more prominent campaign ads featured the plaid-clad logrolling champ taking an actual axe to government spending.) While we don’t yet know how Duffy will vote on these issues, with the Republicans' long history of hostility toward women and families, it's not hard to predict which kinds of programs and services will be deemed unnecessary when it’s time to balance the budget.

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