In another episode of a political “war on women,” Senate Democrats in Washington State took advantage of the absence of a Republican Senator who briefly stepped off the floor to feed her newborn son–leaving the GOP one vote short of control–to push through a vote on a bill that wasn’t even on the schedule.
Of this cynical move, Republican Senator Ann Rivers said, “I think it is shameful for them to make her choose between being on the floor and voting and nursing her child. This caucus, which presents itself as being the caucus of families, would willingly drive a wedge between a mother and her infant? I think that is shameful. Just shameful. And deeply disappointing.”
The Senate in The Evergreen State is closely divided and when Senator Janea Holmquist Newbry (Moses Lake) temporarily stepped away from the floor to feed her newborn son, the balance went from 25-25 to 24 Republicans to 25 Democrats.
As soon as she was off the floor, Democrat Sen. David Frockt, (Seattle), immediately began a push for a vote on a bill that was not up for discussion.
Senator Frockt called for a roll-call vote likely assuming that Democrat Lt. Gov. Brad Owen would put them over the top. Fortunately for Republicans, as the members were called for their vote, Sen. Holmquist Newbry got back to the floor just in time to cast a vote defeating the Democrat effort.
Senator Holmquist Newbry’s office has refused to make a comment on the incident. State GOP com director Keith Schipper said that this is all “quite personal” to her.
For his part, Dem. Sen. Frockt says he didn’t know why Holmquist Newbry left the floor. “I didn’t know she was nursing. All I knew was that they had a member who was absent from the floor,” he said.
In an exclusive interview, Sen. Ann Rivers, Republican Senate majority whip, said she was saddened by the cynical move by Democrats to take control of the floor. “I was ashamed that in this day and age they thought they could do that, driving a wedge between a mother and her baby like that.”
Of the Democrats’ claim to be the party of women and minorities, “Their actions speak so loud,” Rivers said, “that I can’t hear what they are saying.”
“The interesting thing is,” Rivers said, “that almost 20 years ago to the day the Democrats had attacked Republicans for being against women and I thought we’d gotten beyond that attitude, but I guess not.”
Rivers is referring to an incident from March of 1993 when Washington Republicans criticized a Democrat Representative for bringing her baby to the floor of the House during a session–it was then called “unseemly.” Eventually the ensuing controversy brought the legislature to the decision to make more efforts to accommodate elected officials who were also mothers.