Discuss as:

Women's groups divided on GOP efforts, flex-time bill

The National Republican Congressional Committee tomorrow runs the last of its $20,000 worth of digital ads aimed at attracting women – particularly working women – voters ahead of 2014.

So-called “mommy blog” websites like Ikeafans.com have displayed the latest of the GOP-sponsored ads since Tuesday. The wording varies, but they encourage site visitors to tell congressmen and women “you shouldn’t have to choose between work and family.”

The message refers to an upcoming vote on The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, which would allow private-sector employers to offer the option of paid time off instead of overtime pay to employees paid by the hour – something the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 prohibits. State and local governments, however, are not prohibited from offering this and already do.

The bill is one of a trio of Republican bills, with the backing of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, being introduced this month. Cantor is trying to change the idea that the GOP is strictly an opposition party with no tangible ideas – even small ones -- to reach out to groups Republicans struggled with in the 2012 election.

Women’s groups today are largely divided along party lines as to whether the latest advertising will ultimately matter.

“I think getting the message out about giving women – working women, I should say – choices in the workplace, is important,” said Rae Chornenky, president of the National Federation of Republican Women. “And I think that getting that message out will be effective at attracting women voters.”

EMILY’s List, a leading organization supporting pro-abortion rights Democratic women running for office, immediately denounced the legislation and the NRCC ads targeting representatives who are against it.

“Republicans are trying to paint themselves as supportive of women and families by hiding the real consequences of this backward bill, and attacking leaders who rightly oppose it,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, in a press release. “The American people are going to know that they’re up to the same old tricks, and keep rejecting them at the ballot box.”

Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama, introduced the bill, which has thus far garnered mostly Republican support. Out of 168 co-sponsors, not one is a Democrat.

One representative of the NRCC echoed Chorneky and offered her explanation for Democratic opposition: unions are against the measure.

“Working parents should have choices, not restrictions,” said Liesl Hickey, executive director of the NRCC, in a press release.

“Washington Democrats once again want to stand with their number one contributors – big unions – while hurting working families.”

Democrats, meanwhile, say that the flexibility bill is misleading and bad for workers.

“Its major effect would be to hamstring workers -- likely increasing overtime hours for those who don't want them and cutting pay for those who do,” wrote Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist at the progressive Center for Economic Policy Research, in The Huffington Post.

Cantor said the bills “put forward conservative principles to help people first.”

But it’s not just Democrats Cantor has to worry about. Last week, the majority leader was forced to pull one of those trio of bills -- the Helping Sick Americans Act Now – because it didn’t have enough support within the Republican conference.

The bill would have redirected money set aside to implement the Affordable Care Act to an alternate program providing temporary health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

The third of those, the Kids First Research Act, would eliminate federal funding for presidential campaigns and party conventions in order to expand pediatric research at the National Institute of Health. It would also boost autism research funding. He announced the bill on World Autism Day April 2nd. The bill was introduced April 25 and was referred to committee.

After President Obama won the women’s vote by 11 points in the last election, the Republican National Committee put forth a set of recommendations in its December Growth & Opportunity Report to turn the numbers around and expand the base. The report identified the perception that Republicans “don’t care” as particularly harmful with women.

“Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” the report read. 

Also among the suggestions: “Republicans need to talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.”

Cantor has, in turn, been pushing legislation he says addresses the problems of everyday Americans. The day the advertising campaign for the working family bill hit the web, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a press release saying that the substance of the Republican agenda is anti-woman.

“House Republicans wish women voters would forget their past and ignore their agenda, but women voters are too smart for that,” said Emily Bittner of the DCCC.

She cited Republican opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

A vote on The Working Families Flexibility Act is on the calendar for next week.