Twenty years ago today, President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The law, which passed with bipartisan support, gave workers new job protections in the event of a pregnancy or family medical emergency, mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave. And while FMLA has failed to cover all workers — only employers with more than 50 workers are bound by the law, for instance, and as many as 40 percent of the workforce remains ineligible for FMLA protections — the FMLA has helped millions of women keep their jobs while caring for their newborn child.
And yet in 1993, 163 congressmen in the House voted against the bill. Twenty years later, 19 of those nay votes remain in the House of Representatives, and all of them have a few things in common — namely, their gender and their race:
Much has been made about the Republican Party’s “War on Women,” an ongoing effort by conservative congressmen to roll back the rights of women and perpetuate dangerous myths regarding women’s health. And in nearly every instance of GOP-led initiatives to undermine women’s issues — whether it’s opposition to the Violence Against Women Act or attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of life-saving reproductive care — the primary backers have been white Republican men. Last year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was embarrassed by women’s groups for convening a panel to discuss contraception and refusing to invite a single woman, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was admonished in January for his initial failure to elevate anyone but white men to leadership positions in any of the major House committees.