By Allison Stevens
Monday, November 15, 2010
The lame-duck session of Congress starts today and Allison Stevens has a checklist of bills to pass before Nancy Pelosi yields the gavel to John Boehner as new speaker of the house. Paycheck Fairness comes first, with a Senate vote next week.
Another major item: ratification of CEDAW or the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law is scheduled to hold a hearing on the treaty on Nov. 18, which could be just the boost it needs to advance through the Senate (it does not need House approval) and into the hands of a supportive president.
Women's rights activists routinely scold countries such as Iran for not signing CEDAW. But it's a shameful open secret that the United States hasn't signed either. Let's get this unfinished business finished.
Back to the domestic front: a bill that would provide workers with paid sick days to care for themselves or their families if they fall ill has a long way to go. It hasn't passed either chamber. I'm adding it to my lame-duck wish list because if it doesn't advance now, it's likely going to be stuck for a long time.
This bill is particularly important for mothers. After I filed this article to my editor, I sent her a note saying I'd be out of touch for a while because I had to take my young sons to the doctor. I have that flexibility. But most working mothers do not. They should not have to choose between caring for themselves or their children and losing income--or potentially even a job--when they or a family member falls ill.
Congress must also make sure that the $10 million set aside this year for competitive grants to help states pay for paid leave programs is appropriated. As the National Partnership for Women and Families has said, doing that would be a kind of "down payment" on policies to help employees balance work and family responsibilities.
Congress should also reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act before it adjourns.
It's a long list for a short legislative window. But while lawmakers have the chance, let's urge them to get it done.
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Allison Stevens writes about women, politics, and motherhood for a variety of publications and organizations, including groups that promote women's issues.
National Partnership for Women and Families
Family Violence Prevention Fund
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