Tammy Duckworth — congresswoman, double amputee, Iraq war veteran, mother-to-be — recently asked her Democratic boss in Congress to accommodate her. It seems that Duckworth’s doctor advised her not to travel during the last weeks of her high-risk pregnancy, and she wanted to cast her vote in the elections for House Democratic Caucus leadership and committee members. So she asked for permission to vote by proxy.
Her request was presented at a closed-door meeting of the Democratic caucus -—and denied. Why? The official reason is that caucus rules don’t allow proxy votes. “Obviously,
The real reason she was denied a proxy vote? Duckworth was not likely to vote the way House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wanted her to.
“Here you have a woman, a decorated war veteran who is undergoing a high-risk pregnancy, and they can’t suspend the rules,” the aide complained to the newspaper.
My question is: Is Congress so dysfunctional it blithely ignores the laws it passed to level the playing field for Americans with disabilities? If anyone deserved a simple accommodation it’s Rep. Duckworth, but Pelosi and her caucus fear that if the rules are bent for Duckworth, then rules will have to be bent for other members.
Really? Does a caucus member who wants to attend an event in another city and requests a proxy vote rise to the same level as Duckworth?
But let’s look at this a bit differently. Think of the positive message that Pelosi and her caucus could have sent the country if they had allowed Duckworth the proxy vote: that not only did the legislative body pass the ADA, it abides by its principles and accommodates its members as necessary.
But, no. Voting rules cannot be changed, even for a “heroine to our country,” as Pelosi described Duckworth when she tried to defend the no proxy vote decision.
Apparently the situation, though fraught with hypocrisy and mean-spirited politics, wasn’t important enough for the national media to cover. It only got notice from the outlets that cover Capitol Hill. And they framed the story as a women’s issue, pointing out that Pelosi has a history of supporting women’s causes but failed to support a pregnant Duckworth.
That may be true, but Duckworth’s disability and the refusal to accommodate her, is the real story here. Once again, those who represent us let their power overrule their common sense.
By the way, Duckworth gave birth to a baby girl, Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey, on Nov. 18. Her response to the caucus denial was far more gracious than I would have been.
Her statement read: “I submitted a request to the Caucus to allow for a proxy vote due to my pregnancy. The Caucus chose not to allow me to vote via proxy. I respect the process and very much appreciated my colleagues who made sure my request was considered.”