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Doreen Denny

Reflections on 41: Three Things I Learned from President George H.W. Bush

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I joined the George H.W. Bush White House as a twenty-something presidential management intern after completing my Ivy League master’s degree in public policy. Becoming deputy associate director of education policy for the Office of Economic and Domestic Policy was a dream job. I could never have imagined stepping into an office in the Old Executive Office Building and calling it my own when starting graduate school. Having been invited to serve the man who occupied the Oval Office and declared his intention to be the Education President made it all the more meaningful. As all can attest who accept such a role, the hours are long and the benefits are priceless. Being in the center of the national conversation and influencing the direction of national policy is a heady experience. But that is where the character of the president we honor this week offered lasting life lessons for me.

First, prudence is a virtue. My generation will recall the Saturday Night Live comedy skits Dana Carvey mastered of our 41st president – the hand gestures and phrases that Carvey may have repeated more than the actual president became part of President Bush’s lasting persona. Especially the phrase “wouldn’t be prudent.” I heard this line enough out of George H.W. Bush’s mouth that it would have stuck either way. And I couldn’t help but reflect on what he was conveying. For a young woman new to politics, it spoke volumes. There are situations which tempt an expedited response, but a pause to reflect and a measured approach might result in a better solution or outcome in the long run. Prudence was a guideline to govern the decision-making process. Prudence might lead to results that aren’t always optimal or politically expedient, but generally never regretful.

Second, kindness counts. President Bush admits he was never good at the “vision thing.” But from the moment he took the oath of office, he cast a vision of a “kinder, gentler nation” that guided his presidency. It was this principle that inspired his“Thousand Points of Light” to recognize the organizations in our communities who reach others with kindness and compassion. Literally, one such organization a day was highlighted throughout his presidency from the moment of inception! We staffers would get the press releases and be reminded every day of the virtue of serving others. President Bush’s personal letters were another way he showed kindness. He was a man of the written word, whose heart was not easily expressed vocally, but bled all over the page in ink. Troves of these letters are treasures for so many people and have become the basis of the only autobiography ever written.

Third, faith matters. While private in his demonstrations of religious or spiritual expression, President Bush exemplified the foundation of faith that upheld his life. He stood on solid ground and an abiding belief in God, in humanity, and in the founding principles that birthed and upheld our nation. He conveyed calm in the midst of the storm through major events of his presidency, like the Gulf War. He invited people to the table to negotiate tough issues, like the nation’s governors on education or congressional leaders over major policy pursuits like the Americans with Disabilities Act. He believed that good-faith efforts to find common ground while keeping your word can lead to breakthroughs. His integrity was not always matched by the other side, yet he never lost faith in the potential of people to do the right thing. In Washington, some may call that naïve. I call it noble.

George H.W. Bush, our 41st president, was indeed a man of honor, worthy of our every remembrance for a lifetime of service to our country. Thank you for being my first and lasting example of prudence, kindness, and faith in the midst of Washington politics.

‘Women’ taken out of ‘Violence Against Women Act’

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and 176 Democrat members of Congress have sponsored a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that removes the references to women.

“Children, youths, and adults” are replacing the wording “women and children.” What to make of this? Confusion about what gender means now that “male and female” are being removed from the liberal agenda? Acquiescence to an activist, identity politics that seeks to elevate fluid gender perceptions above biological sex? It’s a travesty women would no longer be the focus of the Violence Against Women Act.

The left’s double speak around sexism seems only a matter of convenience. Think about it. Capitol Hill just endured weeks of mob protests crying out for victims of sexual abuse. The #MeToo movement is populated by women victims of sexual assault. Rep. Jackson Lee supposedly made a stand for women when she and her — dare I say female — colleagues from the House stood in protest at the Kavanaugh committee vote. As one of the “Women for Kavanaugh” sitting in front of that group of Congresswomen, I felt the animosity toward any woman not on their side — as if our voices were illegitimate.

Vulnerable women in the halls of the Hart Senate Building were fed extremist views that justice for survivors would be lost and “women would die” if Kavanaugh were on the court. Manipulating the pain of survivors of sexual abuse by inciting such fear is despicable and ultimately hurts women.

The Democrats’ crass tactics actually exploited women. Christine Blasey Ford was the first exploited when her confidential letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was leaked to the press. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp(D-N.D.) recounted the sexual assaults of “countless North Dakotans and others close to me” in opposing Kavanaugh, then proceeded to release their names without permission in a campaign ad, before apologizing profusely, but the damage had been done.

The strident, uncorroborated slander against now-Justice Kavanaugh which screamed “a vote for Kavanaugh is a vote against women” rings hollow when considering how the liberals take the focus away from the protection of women in VAWA.

Congress must stand for women of sexual assault and domestic abuse, their privacy, safety and rights as victims first. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 43.6 percent of women, nearly 52.2 million, experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

Twenty one percent of women experience rape, compared to 2.6 percent of men. For all forms of violence including stalking, 25 percent of women compared to 10 percent of men. Despite decades of programs funded by VAWA and similar laws, the number of women who were raped in America rose by 3 percent between 2010 and 2015 from 18.3 percent to 21.3 percent.

If women become secondary in VAWA to advance a sexual and gender identity political agenda, how can Congress expect to turn around this trend? Before politicizing VAWA, members across the political spectrum agreed on this legislation. They should work again to strengthen the focus on justice and support for women.

First, focus support on women and girls in defining underserved populations. Stop forcing sexual orientation and gender identity language, neither of which have shown to be underserved populations in VAWA programs. These efforts take the focus away from all women.

Second, increase accountability and priority in testing rape kits through the Debbie Smith DNA backlog grant program. It is unconscionable that after fifteen years and one billion dollars spent, the rape kit backlog still hasn’t been eliminated. Every sexual assault kit represents a brave woman waiting for justice.

Third, increase penalties for and education around the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Believe it or not, FGM is practiced in the US today on the most vulnerable of our population: little girls.

Fourth, treat nondiscrimination a matter of civil rights for all women, not special rights for some. Including sexual orientation and gender identity terms are unnecessary to provide effective and non-discriminatory legal protection and support services to female victims of violence. Such expansion often leads to violations of the rights, privacy and safety of women.

Under current law, women who have sought refuge in a shelter to escape male abusers can be forced to live in quarters with a man who identifies as a woman. Under VAWA’s nondiscrimination provision women could not seek protection or privacy from these individuals. It’s not right that their safety and privacy is compromised.

Finally, ensure all support organizations that serve victims of abuse can participate fully, including faith-based service providers who compassionately and effectively serve victims of violence and human trafficking. No person or organization should be targeted or excluded based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

These are some of the changes that would increase women’s safety and make VAWA more effective. In short, make women the priority again.

Doreen Denny is the senior director of government relations at Concerned Women for America.


A version of this article was published by The Hill

Legislative Update: Senate Majority Continues Work to Fill the Courts

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Even while the Senate stands in recess through the November election, the Senate Judiciary Committee is at work holding hearings on judicial nominees to ready them for votes when the Senate returns. Just this week two circuit court nominees for the west-coast Ninth Circuit had hearings, adding to last week’s hearing for Allison Jones Rushing to be a circuit judge for the Fourth Circuit (more on her in a moment). Seven additional lower court judges were on the hearing docket for life-time appointments to the bench.

President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have not flinched in their commitment to Americans to fill federal court vacancies at all levels. Their success not only has been impressive, but historic. To date, 84 federal judges have been confirmed, including two Supreme Court justices, 29 circuit judges, and 53 district judges. This represents an all-time record for the number of circuit judges confirmed in the first two years of a presidential administration. It has happened in the face of unrelenting obstruction by the Democrats who deploy any procedural means possible to delay confirmations.

Women are notable among the list of confirmed judges. One year ago this week, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was the first woman nominated by the Trump Administration to be confirmed. Serving on the Seventh Circuit court of appeals, Barrett is also on President Trump’s short list for Supreme Court consideration. Like Barrett, Allison Jones Rushing of North Carolina is one of the rising stars nominated by the Trump Administration and positioned to take a lifetime appointment on the circuit court. Rushing, 36, clerked for Judge Gorsuch on the Tenth Circuit and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. Her professional experience in law has covered a wide range of issues involving complex civil and criminal litigation in the federal and appellate courts. She has argued cases before federal circuit and state appellate courts and been recognized by professional groups for her excellent written and oral advocacy skills.

President Trump won the presidency with conservative voters who cared about filling court vacancies with highly qualified, conservative judges committed to upholding the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And he hasn’t disappointed. This November voters in key red states have the potential of strengthening that majority in the Senate to move these judges forward.

Chairman Grassley has scheduled the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 19th nomination hearing for the week after the election. Thirty -two judicial nominees are out of committee and ready for confirmation votes by the full Senate. As Chairman Grassley has said, “we are not tired of winning.”

Pro-life Progress in Congress Won’t Come Without a Fight

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Late last week, the House and Senate wrapped up a conference on a spending bill package for the departments of Labor, HHS, and Education, coupled with the Department of Defense (LHHS/DOD).  Conferees also agreed to add a short-term continuing resolution (CR) for remaining federal agencies to get beyond the November election without a government shutdown.  While not the same “omnibus” appropriations bill that we have seen most years, this “minibus” package covers the lion’s share of fiscal year 2019 discretionary spending across the entire federal government.  Unfortunately, in the process of negotiating differences between the House and Senate bills, all provisions that would have advanced pro-life and religious liberty policies that were in the House version were rejected as “poison pills” by conference leadership.  These “riders” included legislation for which CWALAC has been fighting: the Conscience Protection Act, defunding abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, banning aborted fetal tissue research, and including faith-based agencies in adoption and foster care.
 
Reacting to this unfortunate denial of conservative priorities, all of which had been approved in earlier action by House appropriators, CWALAC CEO and President Penny Nance said:
 
“It is highly disappointing that the only ‘rider’ conference negotiators could make a deal on was a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown.  Conservative House appropriators fought the good fight for many new pro-life and conscience protection provisions that are desperately needed to prevent taxpayer funds from propping up the abortion industry year after year.   
 
“We need leaders to stand up for innocent life and stand firm to make progress.  It won’t come without the willingness to fight to the end for our principles.  If deals were made in these negotiations, then it is pretty clear who was on the losing side.  Our members want to see results, and unfortunately, once again, pro-life and conscience protection priorities were sidelined.”  
 
In further evidence of the steep climb ahead in this fight for progress, the Senate this week approved the LHHS/DOD spending package by a vote of 93-7 without a fight.  We’ll see next week if the House follows suit.   

Sen. Hirono Should Step Up for Justice

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As a woman and as an American,  I’m dismayed by the message Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) delivered this week telling  “men of this country and the men in this committee” to “just shut up and step up” to the allegation of sexual assault from 36 years ago against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  Let’s be clear, these allegations are just that — allegations. They are not facts backed up by evidence, and they are unsubstantiated by eyewitnesses.  Judge Kavanaugh, under oath, has categorically denied the claims. And yet, Sen. Hirono has served as judge and jury in condemning not only Judge Kavanaugh, but all men as complicit in the process.

Make no mistake, this is a form of sexism of an insidious nature.  In her rush to condemn, Sen. Hirono is exploiting the sexes, advocating a culture that favors, without questions, the accuser over the accused (even when wrongly accused). Her misguided view lacks any standard of justice.  She is making a mockery of the judicial system and the oath she took to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States that expresslyprotects due process.

We should fear for our children — girls and boys — and the message this sends.  What exactly is the purpose of Sen. Hirono asking men to “shut up and step up”?  Truth?  Justice?  Hardly. Ironically, truth is exactly what the 11 Republican “old white men” on the Senate Judiciary Committee are trying to seek.  Since learning of these 11thhour allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, which Sen. Hirono’s own colleague, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), concealed for months, the Senate Judiciary Committee has set out to investigate these claims, as is their obligation under Senate rules.  Chairman Chuck Grassley has offered any way possible for this accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, to be interviewed and/or to testify in public or private.  This offer has so far gone unaccepted (but he continues graciously to maintain the offer open).

Senate Democrats are looking more and more complicit in colluding with her handlers to set the terms and conditions under which her testimony might be heard to further their ultimate objective of delaying the nomination until after the election and ultimately derailing it altogether.

Make no mistake, too many women have faced sexual assault without the confidence of due process to come forward. But Sen. Hirono’s rant, essentially condemning the male race as abusers first, disregards the very standards of justice that underpin civility and our freedom.   Yes, the #MeToo era has merit, but not at the expense and erosion of the foundations of our democracy.  Sen. Hirono should step up for justice, for women and for men, and perform her duty to uphold the Constitution that she swore under oath to defend.

CWALAC Letter in Support of Kavanaugh

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Today, Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women LAC sent the following letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to the nominee’s impressive judicial qualifications and strength of character, the letter highlights Judge Kavanaugh’s advancement of women in the legal field:

“As the largest public policy organization for women in the country, CWALAC takes special note of Judge Kavanaugh’s commitment to the development of women in the legal field…Judge Kavanaugh employed the first all-female class of law clerks in the history of the D.C. Circuit Court, and more than half of his law clerks have been women. There is no question that his incredible efforts to advance women in the legal field will yield incredible fruit for generations to come.”

Click here to access the letter (.PDF).

Kavanaugh Hearings Scheduled for September 4-7. Contact Your Senators Today!

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Immediately following Labor Day when much of Washington returns to a normal schedule, the Senate will hold a week of hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court.  It’s a moment for which CWA has been waiting – and working.  As the Women for Kavanaugh bus tour concludes this week rallying support across the country, we now turn our attention to the process required to get the Kavanaugh nomination across the finish line.

The first step in this process is the Committee hearing. Here is what to expect:  Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has announced a hearing schedule for the week of September 4-7.  Day 1 of the hearings will include an introduction of Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and opening statements by members of the Committee.   Days 2 and 3 will be when Committee members asking questions of the nominee, putting Judge Kavanaugh on the hot seat.  Day 4 will include testimony from outside witnesses and the American Bar Association.   As the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are happening, CWA will be on Capitol Hill standing in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation and praying for Judge Kavanaugh and the Committee as they do their work.   We expect just as many voices will be railing against him, pressuring members of the Senate to oppose his nomination.

Leading up to the hearings, it is more important than ever for Senators to hear from their constituents, whether they have announced publicly how they plan to vote or not.  We need your voice of support to be heard by your Senators TODAY in order for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to succeed.   You can send a letter of support by connecting to our CWA Action Center HERE. This link will take you to a letter that you can personalize and send directly to the U.S. Senators for your state.  Thank you for taking time to do this NOW!

Pro-Religious Liberty Measure Awaits Needed Action in Congress

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The House and Senate are out of session this week but will face a crucial religious freedom question when they both return.  Last month the House  Appropriations Committee adopted a pro-religious liberty amendment modeled after the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881, S.811) in its markup of the Labor-HHs appropriations bill.  This legislation in no way excludes any eligible agency from providing child welfare services, including agencies who choose to adopt to LGBT parents or single parents; it simply prevents the government from infringing upon a faith-based agencies’ sincerely held religious beliefs. Over 437,000 children exist in the foster care system, and approximately 117,000 are currently eligible for adoption. Excluding providers based on religious values hurts these vulnerable children who are waiting and hoping to be placed in loving homes.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia made a desperate plea for more foster families to help care for hundreds of children needing homes, many coming into the system due to the opioid crisis plaguing the city.  Days later, the city of Philadelphia halted all child placements through two of the top-performing agencies, Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services, because of their belief that children should be placed in a home with a mother and a father. A federal judge recently ruled that these religious charities must adhere to the government’s view of an eligible family, thus violating their sincerely held religious beliefs, in order to be eligible agencies. Philadelphia has forced two out of 30 agencies to close for not doing what the other 28 would do. This is why the Inclusion Act is so crucial; government discrimination against people of faith and agencies who represent them must end. This hurts mothers who want to place children in homes that align with her beliefs, it hurts children who are desperate for good homes, and it violates the  foundation of  our religious liberties as a nation.

Breaking new ground in the fight for religious freedom in Congress is possible, but won’t be easy.  Opponents who view including faith-based agencies in any federal program as a threat to LGBT rights are waging an all-out assault against the measure included in the House appropriations bill.  We need your voice to embolden members of Congress to stand up for the freedom of birthmothers and faith-based agencies to express their religious values without threat of government discrimination.

Calling on Congress to Prioritize the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog

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While much of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s focus will turn to the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, other important legislative business remains on its agenda, including the reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act. In 2004, Congress passed the Debbie Smith Act, named for a victim of a violent sexual assault, to increase the capacity of states to analyze sexual assault kits and help eliminate the backlog of untested kits that delay justice for victims of rape.

After nearly 15 years and over a billion dollars later, eliminating the backlog is far from resolved, and the National Institute of Justice cannot even quantify the extent of the problem. Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) is insisting that improvements be made to ensure Debbie Smith grant program funds be used to account for the full extent of the backlog problem and prioritize testing of sexual assault kits over other DNA analysis.

The need for such a priority in our criminal justice system is greater than ever. According to the Center for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 21.3 percent of women reported being raped in their lifetime, and the problem is only increasing. In 2010 1.3 million women reported being raped; in 2015 that number rose to 1.5 million.

During a recent Senate Judiciary Committee, rape victim, Amanda Nguyen, shared the chilling reality of how forensic evidence is collected following a rape: “Most people don’t know this, but rape kit examinations last three to seven hours; mine was six hours long,” recounted Ms. Nguyen, founder of Rise, “That’s because your body, my body, was the crime scene.”

CWALAC is seeking justice for victims of rape and sexual assault by calling on Congress to prioritize analysis of sexual assault kits and fully account for the backlog of rape kits sitting on shelves in law enforcement offices and crime labs across the country.

Weekly Update for June 9, 2018 from CWA’s Legislative Department

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Washington, D.C. – This week amplified the call to defund Planned Parenthood with shocking new evidence of how abortion clinics have engaged in aiding abusers and intimidating employees from not reporting client sexual abuse. Live Action’s report, Aiding Abusers:  Planned Parenthood’s Cover-up of Child Sexual Abuse, compiles court cases, reports from state health departments, testimonies from former employees, and interviews with survivors to uncover Planned Parenthood’s culture of complicity and unwritten “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.   For example, documented cases have involved girls as young as 12 and 13 years old whose perpetrators, including their own fathers, forced them to abort their pregnancies.  Planned Parenthood did not report the abuse to authorities as required by law and then sent these wounded girls out the door with their abusers.

This unconscionable track record is why the Trump Administration’s proposed Protect Life Rule includes a provision requiring any recipient of Title X family planning funds to comply with all state and local laws on reporting child sexual abuse, molestation, incest, rape, intimate partner violence and human trafficking.

On Thursday, 56 pro-life Senators called on the Trump Administration to investigate Planned Parenthood’s failure to report suspected sexual abuse of minors in their care through the Title X program.  In a letter to HHS Secretary Azar, Senators request all records of incidents of failure to report abuse, documentation of consequences, and data from the past decade of how many children below the age of consent were served and how many reports of abuse were made.

These developments further the importance for every member of CWA to go to our website’s special page, ConcernedWomen.org/ProtectLifeRule, and submit a comment supporting all provisions of the Administration’s proposed Protect Life Rule.  We have a unique opportunity to speak loudly for those who cannot speak for themselves, to protect life and those who give life, to thank this Administration for standing on the side of life and against abortion and abuse.   Please comment today!