Olympia, WA — Democrats at the Washington state capitol tried to stage a quick vote while a Republican lawmaker briefly left the chamber to breastfeed her four-month-old son.
Although Washington is considered a blue state, along with two disaffected Democrats, Republicans control the state senate by one seat as the so-called Majority Coalition Caucus.
During a debate on a routine series of bills, Republican Senator Janea Holmquist Newbry temporarily went to the women’s lounge to nurse her son. With her absence, the Democrats and Republicans both had 24 votes present (plus the Lt. Governor, a Democrat, who could vote to break a tie as the Vice President is empowered to do in the US Senate).
Democrats suddenly jumped at the opportunity to advance a bill that wasn’t yet on the senate calendar. They demanded an immediate a roll call procedural vote, and nearly passed it but Sen. Holmquist Newbry came back just in time to provide the 25th vote that defeated the motion.
Sen. Holmquist Newbry has not yet commented on the rushed vote, but her colleague Sen. Ann Rivers had this to say about the incident: “I think it is shameful for them to make her choose between being on the floor and voting and nursing her child. This caucus, which presents itself as being the caucus of families, would willingly drive a wedge between a mother and her infant? I think that is shameful. Just shameful. And deeply disappointing.”
Apparently this rushed vote was a departure from the collegiality that often prevails in the Washington state senate. Democrats claimed they didn’t know why Holmquist Newbry left the room even though it is reportedly common knowledge that she is nursing from time to time.
According to media reports, the not-particularly-controversial bill in question already had strong bipartisan support and would likely have passed eventually once it came up on the official calendar.
Janea Holmquist Newbry was first elected to the state senate in 2006, after serving three terms as the 13th District’s state representative. At 31, she became the youngest female state senator elected in Washington history. She currently chairs the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.
Do you think that the Democrats in the Washington state senate were engaging in a war on women by rushing this vote in the senator’s absence?
[Top image credit: Cacophony]