If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu

As a female Senator, someone who’s been in the Senate since the days my male colleagues tried to keep policy negotiations to just the men’s locker rooms, I’ve seen how much it matters to have a diversity of perspectives at the table. And I know firsthand, that when women don’t have a seat at the table, their voices just aren’t heard. It’s true on all issues — education, budget negotiations, foreign policy, and so much more. But it’s especially true when it comes to discussions about the future of our health care system and women’s access to care.

So when The New York Times reported that Senate Republicans had convened a 13-member all-male working group, you read that right — 13 men and not one woman — to work behind closed doors on the legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, women — and men — across the country were rightly outraged.

Under Trumpcare, being a woman would be considered a pre-existing condition, Planned Parenthood would be defunded, and women’s health care, including coverage maternity care, would be specifically targeted. And still, not a single woman was included in the working group.

Women across the country made their voices heard to say this was unacceptable and that our voices should be heard, but Republicans didn’t budge. And when questions were raised about their decision to assemble an all-male working group to develop health care legislation for the entire country, Republican leaders’ responses were insulting. They called it an “optics” issue, and one leading Republican even referred to it as a “bogus” issue.

This isn’t about optics, and this issue isn’t bogus — this is about women’s health care needs. And this purposeful exclusion of women’s perspectives, and the refusal to acknowledge their value, is simply wrong. A working group with only men just isn’t going to appropriately address the issues that women look at when they think about health care for themselves and their families.

Of course, Republicans have made clear from the start that Trumpcare isn’t about what’s best for women or about what’s best for patients and families. This is about winning some political points and President Trump getting his way, and it’s about delivering massive tax cuts for insurance companies and the very wealthy.

So while Republicans continue to push their extreme anti-woman agenda, I’ve got a message for them: I’m not going anywhere, Democrats aren’t going anywhere, and women who believe Republicans shouldn’t be making their health care decisions for them certainly aren’t going anywhere. Instead of following President Trump and House Republicans down the deeply harmful path we’ve seen so far, Senate Republicans should run away from Trumpcare as fast as they can by dropping once and for all the damaging, politically-motivated effort to sabotage our health care system in ways that raise health care costs and hurt families. If they refuse, and if they continue rushing to raise costs and take away families’ care, they will own the consequences. And they will be held accountable.

Leader McConnell recently said, “We’re not going to waste our time talking to people who have no interest in fixing the problem.” Well, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t talking to anyone at all — except themselves! I’m going to keep pushing them to drop the politics, stop threatening families’ health care, and join Democrats at the table for a bipartisan, open, and inclusive process that will lead to a better result for all families. That’s the way to get this done right — and I know a lot of women in the Senate and House who are ready to get to work.