Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health Statement on Gov. Walker’s State of the State Address
Sara Finger, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH), made the following statement in response to Governor Walker’s State of the State Address:
Governor Walker and his political allies have spent the past seven years trying to undermine, sabotage, and repeal the Affordable Care Act, much to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of Wisconsin women and girls. As a result, it is hard to take seriously his newfound interest in making healthcare more accessible to Wisconsinites.
Furthermore, his proposals to address health insurance affordability omits the policy solution that would provide the most Wisconsinites with access to healthcare and save the state the most money: accepting federal Medicaid expansion money that was made available to states that are willing to expand eligibility for their state Medicaid program. In addition, accepting federal Medicaid expansion money will likely reduce private health insurance premiums by providing Medicaid coverage to people with health conditions that currently have to purchase private insurance.
WAWH calls on Governor Walker focus his efforts to address health care affordability on solutions, such as Medicaid expansion, that are proven to improve the health of women and families in Wisconsin.
The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Judge Michael Brennan, one of President Trump’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Before discussing Judge Brennan’s nomination, here is a quick history of the judicial vacancy for which he is nominated. All the way back in 2010, then President Obama nominated Victoria Nourse to fill the vacancy, which was created by a judicial retirement. The Senate did not convene hearings on Nourse before the end of 111th Congress, and President Obama re-nominated her again in 2011. However, Senator Ron Johnson had replaced Russ Feingold in the Senate, and Sen. Johnson refused to turn in his “blue slip” on Nourse, which effectively held up her nomination despite Nourse’s extensive vetting and approval by the bipartisan Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission.
Nourse’s nomination was eventually withdrawn due to Sen. Johnson’s opposition. After lengthy negotiations between Sen. Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin to reach an agreement regarding the process by which future federal judicial nominations from Wisconsin would be handled, the bipartisan nominating commission unanimously recommended Donald Schott for the vacancy, who was then nominated by President Obama in January of 2016. The U.S. Senate never held a floor vote on Schott’s nomination.
This process brings us where we are today with the Trump Administration’s decision to nominate Judge Brennan to what is now the longest federal appeals court vacancy in the country. Despite their previous zeal to obstruct and delay President Obama’s two nominees to the position, it appears that many of Judge Brennan’s supporters no longer think such a rigorous and lengthy nomination process is necessary. In fact, the Trump Administration did not even consult with Sen. Baldwin regarding the Brennan nomination and Judge Brennan did not receive the requisite five votes from the nominating commission that Senators Baldwin and Johnson had agreed were necessary for a judicial nomination to move forward (Brennan received four votes).
Perhaps more importantly than this flawed nomination process, Judge Brennan has also expressed viewpoints that are troubling from the standpoint of women’s health and economic security. According to a report from the Alliance for Justice, Brennan has expressed dismissive attitudes regarding the very real challenges women continue to face in the workplace, many of which contribute to a gender wage gap that has improved very little since 2001.
Brennan shared some of his insights on the matter in an article he authored on “personal responsibility,” in which he cautioned readers to guard themselves against arguments that some individuals or groups of people are denied advancement by a “glass ceiling” or because the rules were “rigged” against them. Brennan hints that these concepts are more a rhetorical “sleight-of-hand” than a genuine problem grounded in gendered societal expectations of women, the lack of affordable child care, outright discrimination, and a whole host of other societal factors that an abundance of research has clearly demonstrated have a negative impact on the career advancement and earnings of women.
The Alliance for Justice report also mentions some other troubling viewpoints held by Judge Brennan, such as his applauding of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Violence Against Women Act that provided a federal civil rights remedy to victims of gender-motivated violence.
Judge Brennan also played a prominent role in Governor Walker’s appointment of two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly, both of whom have a record of troubling comments regarding a range of issues. Bradley’s comments regarding people living with HIV/AIDS, members of the LGBT community, the women’s rights movement, and violence against women earned her infamy after her appointment to the state Supreme Court in 2015. Kelly’s comments regarding affirmative action and same-sex marriage also drew substantial attention at the time of his appointment.
At a minimum, the process leading to Judge Brennan’s nomination, his record on issues that are important to women’s rights, and his judgement about who is fit to serve on Wisconsin’s highest court should give members of the Senate Judiciary Committee significant pause when determining whether to confirm his appointment.
Appointments to a federal court of appeals are for life and these judges are entrusted to make some of the most important decisions that shape our rights as citizens and the communities in which we live. With the stakes so high, it makes no sense to abandon the rigorous selection process that has served our state so well in the past. Sen. Johnson should join Sen. Baldwin and demand that a nominee be put forward who can gain the necessary support of the Wisconsin Nominating Commission before this vacancy is filled.
The Wisconsin Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform held a hearing yesterday on SB 634, which would prohibit (or “preempt”) local governments from creating or enforcing many different types of employment and labor protections. State law already prohibits local communities from passing living wage or paid leave ordinances. If passed, SB 634 would add the following labor and employment protections to this list of what local government cannot do:
Many of these types of labor and employment protections are essential for raising the wages and improving the working conditions of working women. Many of them, such as anti-discrimination laws, prohibitions against employers soliciting the salary histories of prospective employees, and laws that protect union organizing rights are critical to reduce the gender wage gap.
The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health testified against the bill, as did several other organizations that advocate for issues to promote women’s economic security, labor unions, and local governments.
The Committee has not yet voted on the bill, nor has the Assembly Committee to where the Assembly version of the bill was referred held a hearing on the legislation. We will continue to provide any relevant updates regarding the fate of this legislation.
If you would like to contact your legislators and urge them to oppose this legislation that would undermine the economic security of many working women and their families in Wisconsin, click here.
Cecely Castillo, Policy Director