Sitting on a panel of powerful women in politics, Hillary Clinton blasted Republican lawmakers for blocking economic legislation that would help women and the economy.
“The Congress increasingly, despite the best efforts of my friends and others, is living in an evidence-free zone, where what the reality is in the lives of Americans is so far from the minds of too many [lawmakers],” Clinton said Thursday during an appearance at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank.
"We could all tell stories about people we know who have been really egregiously impacted by the failure of the political leadership on the other side of the aisle," she added.
Clinton appeared with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Sen. Patty Murray, the highest-ranking woman in the Senate; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has emerged as a leader on women’s issues in her short time in the chamber; Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a longtime advocate in the House; and Neera Tanden, CAP’s president, who used to work for Clinton.
Also on the panel were two women who have struggled to make ends meet, but were able to get by thanks to the kinds of government programs supported by the women leaders on the panel.
As she often does, Clinton framed the issue Thursday as an economic one. When workforces have “full participation" from women, the economy does better for everyone, Clinton said. She started an initiative at the Clinton Foundation to promote female participation in the workforce.
Clinton did not directly discuss Paid Family Leave. Advocates criticized her earlier this year for her stance on the issue. While on a tour promoting her book “Hard Choices,” Clinton told CNN that while she supports the policy, she didn’t think the country was ready for it. “I think, eventually, it should be [implemented],” Clinton said at the time. “I don’t think, politically, we could get it now.”
At a time when Democratic members of Congress, including some who were on the panel her today, are pushing Congress to pass a Paid Sick Leave bill, Clinton’s earlier comments surprised some and displeased others.
But Clinton did not address the controversy when she spoke on Thursday, though she did reiterate her support for the policy. (Gilibrand called it the one issue that makes her "the angriest.")
Clinton also addressed the struggles of women who work in the tipped economy, where there is no guarantee of a livable wage if in states that haven’t raised the tipped minimum wage. The issue was highlighted in a recent report from the National Women’s Law Center, which found that women are more vulnerable than men.
“The floor is collapsing. We talk about a glass ceiling – these women don’t even have a secure floor under them,” Clinton said.
The plight of women and children has long been a central motivating issue for Clinton. Her first job out of law school was at the Children’s Defense Fund, and she continues to speak and write about the issues any chance she gets.
She said nothing about her potential presidential candidacy on Thursday, though DeLauro did make an oblique reference to Clinton’s “future.”
But Clinton's advice about how progressives can change policies to support women would be good advice for her to heed in her own presidential campaign as well — if there is a campaign, of course. “We need people to feel like they’re part of a movement," she said. "It's not just about an election; it's about a movement. A movement to really empower themselves."