In attempts to prove they're not sexist, both parties are inviting their female leaders to speak out about how happy they are. Republicans have been accused of waging a war on women, but the White House has been under scrutiny lately for paying its female employees less than men.
President Obama says he's dedicating this year to fighting for equal pay for women. But a recent study conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute shows that female White House staffers make 88 cents for every dollar male staffers make. The AEI put the study together based on White House salary data, but White House press secretary Jay Carney says the 88-cent statistic is misleading.
"Men and women in equivalent roles here earn equivalent salaries," he tells The New York Times. The 88-cent statistic comes from the fact that more women serve in lower-level positions in the White House. But the gender gap nationwide — that women make 77 cents for every dollar men make — is also affected by the fact that women are less likely to serve in executive roles. Republicans are happy to point out that the president can't speak out about the 77-cent statistic without admitting that the gender wage gap exists in the White House, too.
Closing that gap in the White House will take time, so what can the Democrats do in the meantime? Point out all the happy ladies who work for the president. Carney notes, "Some of the most senior positions in the White House are filled by women, including national security adviser, homeland security adviser, White House counsel, communications director, senior adviser, deputy chief of staff." Three of these women were recently the focus of a friendly piece in Politico about the women of the White House. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, counsel Kathy Ruemmler, and Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco all happened to be captured in a photo sitting on the couch with the president, and they told Politico that they love and value their jobs.
Republicans, meanwhile, are trying to combat the Democrats' GOP-war-on-women messaging ahead of the midterms. Unfortunately, the party has limited options in terms of spokeswomen. They've gotten Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to speak on the party's behalf as much as possible, but she's currently the only Republican woman in leadership in Congress. McMorris Rodgers delivered the official response to Obama's State of the Union address this year.
This week, Democrats in the Senate will consider the Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to make employers more responsible for paying employees equally. Republicans are against it, because it's more regulation. In the coming debate, Republicans will argue that Democrats are hypocrites when it comes to paycheck fairness, and Democrats will argue that Republicans are just wrong. "Republicans can change their rhetoric, but they can’t change their records on women’s issues," Rep. Steve Israel tells Politico.
The women in both parties will insist they feel supported and valued by their employers. "Clearly, there is more work to be done, but it is important that people recognize that Republicans are about empowering them," McMorris Rodgers tells Politico.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.