After the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, Republicans gathered at the White House with Donald Trump to celebrate. The image of the event made its way around social media, with people noting the lack of gender and racial diversity. It was a lot of white men (with a spattering of white women). Which is why it's surprising that no one got the message in the Senate that things should be a little more inclusive. There are absolutely no female senators working on the new health care bill, which feels totally inappropriate, yet not at all surprising.
The team of 13 men was put together by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who obviously handpicked people he thought would write a new health care bill as similar as possible to the one passed in the House last week. When asked why she wasn't included, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said on ABC's This Week, "Well, the leaders obviously chose the people they want.” Read: no moderate Republicans and definitely no women.
Collins is one of just five female GOP senators, but she also spent a lot of her political career regulating and fighting for health care reforms in a few capacities. So she wouldn't have just been the token female. Alas, her spot on the health care team was never to be.
It's especially worrisome that there are no women on the drafting committee given that the version of the American Health Care Act that passed in the House last week was a total blow to women's health care.
That version, which the Senate version will likely mirror, would make it so that having a C-section could be considered a pre-existing condition, as well as various mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, which tend to affect women more than men. The House version of the AHCA would also leave Planned Parenthood to fend for itself. With no women, or even moderate Republicans who might empathize with people other than themselves, who knows what kind of bill McConnell and crew will turn out.
There is one teeny tiny silver lining. There aren't any women writing the bill, but they will be there to vote on it. Over the weekend, Collins also said that the Senate Republicans would be "starting from scratch" and that they wouldn't be "tied down" by the House version of the bill.
It will likely take a few weeks or even months before the bill hits the Senate floor. Republicans can only lose two of their own to pass the bill, and there's no chance that Democrats will support whatever they come up with. Which is why it would have been smart for McConnell to have out together a bipartisan group to write the new bill. Collins agreed with that point over the weekend, saying,
I would like to see us put together a bipartisan group to solve this problem, of Democrats who acknowledge there are problems with the current law, that it is not working well in several states, and Republicans who also want to make sure that we're not reducing coverage and we're giving flexibility.
There are Democrats who think that that Obamacare could use some reform — it was always a work in progress. Hopefully Senate Republicans will notice that the only way to reform any health care bill will be to work with everyone. Especially women.