As we noted in Fizz today, the state senate Democrats' attempt to move a Democratic bill out of deep freeze on the Republican-controlled floor calendar (and actually on to the senate floor for a vote) drew harsh criticism from the GOP.
Sen. Ann Rivers (R-18, La Center), for example, told the Washington State Wire the move was "shameful." "There is a distinct irony to the charge that we are the ones insensitive to the maternity needs of women. Our caucus is not the one trying to repeal Washington's Family and Medical Leave statute."
Here's why: Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle) called for the procedural vote while Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake) was excused to go breast-feed her new baby. Her absence gave the Democrats a brief advantage, though Holmquist Newbry returned in time to restore the Republican majority and squash Frockt's move.
(The bill, by the way, would hold tolling rates down for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and while it had heavy GOP support in the transportation committee, Democrats believe Republican leadership is holding the bill in limbo now because they don't want to give the bill's sponsor, the newly appointed Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-26, Gig Harbor), a win as he heads into a special election.)
Frockt's move does seem extraordinarily oafish. So, we asked him about it.
Here's what he said:
The notion that we would try to capitalize on a member's need to breastfeed her child and use it to our advantage on the floor is absurd. I was not aware that Senator Holmquist Newbry had left the floor for that reason, nor was I even aware that she had her child with her on campus. No one from the majority had indicated that she was leaving the floor for that reason and if I had been aware I would not have made the procedural motion at that time.
The issue, however, is why the motion was necessary. The Republican majority refuses to bring forward Senator Schlicher's bill that will benefit his constituents in Gig Harbor who regularly transverse the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
The bill had virtually unanimous bipartisan support in the Transportation Committee and came out of the Rules Committee without a single vote in opposition. The Republican chair of the committee supports it. [True. As do the six other Republicans on the transporation committee plus Republican ally Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35, Potlatch), who voted it out—Eds.]
We have asked repeatedly for the bill to come for a vote and have offered to work with the majority if there is something that they might need in return. We have gotten no response despite our good-faith efforts. We can do better than this on bipartisanship as we come down to policy cutoff.
And Frockt goes on to add a little more, biting, context:
There is a distinct irony to the charge that we are the ones insensitive to the maternity needs of women. Our caucus is not the one trying to repeal Washington's Family and Medical Leave statute.
The GOP bill to repeal the Family and Medical Leave Act—the 2007 program to give workers time off to care for newborns, newly adopted children, or sick family members—hasn't gottne a vote on the floor yet either, but could move today.
Sen. Holmquist Newbry is a co-sponsor of the FMLA repeal bill.
Sen. Holmquist Newbry did not want to comment for this post.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have proposed a bill to fully fund the FMLA. (The GOP gripe is that the legislation has never been funded, so why keep it on the books as a liability?) The Democratic funding proposal, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33, Des Moines), never got beyond a hearing.