GOP: 'Our bills will empower women'

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash, speaks about empowering women, July 30, 2014.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash, speaks about empowering women, July 30, 2014.

Washington state Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House's Conference Chair, announced a package of legislation she says "will empower women," attempting to give the GOP some ammunition in the midterm fight for women voters.

“House Republicans understand the concerns that Americans — particularly women — face every single day: rising costs, fewer jobs, and less take-home pay.  Our legislation addresses all of those concerns with effective, common-sense solutions to make their lives better. Our bills will empower women all across this country,” Rodgers told msnbc in a statement.

The legislation focuses largely on finances and jobs, the two issues weeks of GOP research recently revealed Republican women care most about.

It's a step away from the party's usual line, that women aren't "single-issue voters" who can be wooed with targeted legislation, but it keeps with the party's strategy of avoiding contentious issues like contraception and focusing on the fiscal issues that have long been their political bread and butter.

The legislation proposes an alternative to that which Democrats have been pushing for months, namely an equal pay bill that would have mandated better pay equity and a raise for minimum wage workers, two-thirds of which are women. Republicans have scuttled both these efforts, saying they kill jobs and hurt employers.

The package of legislation Rodgers proposed includes a handful of bills that have already passed the House and won’t likely advance any further, but it also includes the bipartisan job-training program overhaul the president lauded last week and the Child Care Development Block Grant Reauthorization that has already passed the Senate. There is also new legislation that would protect women from retaliation if they ask about equal pay and a bill that would reverse recent Medicare cuts.

Rodgers announced the push at a press conference Wednesday morning, surrounded by a handful of the women from her caucus, attempting to portray the party as a strong voice for women, though the GOP has struggled for decades with a persistent gender gap.

EMILY's List Communication's Director Jess McIntosh said the bills Republicans have blocked were more important to women than the ones they've proposed. "Solutions to empower women are policies like a better minimum wage, ending gender discrimination in pay and access to women’s health – all solutions these Republicans have worked against," she said in an email. "The GOP has yet to learn that you can’t solve a policy problem with a press release and a photo op, but women voters know better."