Kirsten Gillibrand knew her moment had arrived. The CNN moderators of tonight’s Democratic presidential debate had asked a question about fining companies that don’t fix pay inequities between men and women. When it was her turn to answer, the senator from New York turned to former Vice President Joe Biden and effectively accused him of being sexist.
Years ago, Biden opposed a proposed expansion to the child tax credit. According to Gillibrand, Biden argued that “women working outside the home would ‘create the deterioration of family,’” and that “women who were working outside the home were ‘avoiding responsibility.’” She had always been a working woman, Gillibrand said, and the primary income-earner for her family. She demanded an explanation.
“That was a long time ago,” Biden replied. He said he voted against the measure because he had opposed an expanded credit for high earners, but wanted to see a higher child tax credit now. “I support making sure that every single solitary person needing child care gets an $8,000 tax credit,” he said, claiming that would allow 700,000 women to reenter the workplace.
Gillibrand didn’t yield. This attack was planned: Days before the debate, she started alluding to an unnamed opponent in the presidential race who opposed women working outside the home. “Mr. Vice President,” she said, “you didn’t answer my question. What did you mean when you said, when a woman works outside the home, it’s resulting in ‘the deterioration of family’?”