Obama To Circumvent Congress Over Women's Pay

President Obama on Tuesday is expected to order contractors with the federal government to provide information that could be beneficial to female employees.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

President Obama has vowed to use his executive authority to work around Congress when he isn't able to work with Congress. He'll put that pledge to the test this week as he promotes equal pay for women. This comes at a time when the Democratic Party is trying to energize blocks of voters who helped reelect President Obama in 2012. That includes women, minorities and young people.

This also comes as some leading female politicians, including Hillary Clinton, are talking about how hard it is, still, for women to succeed in politics.

Cokie Roberts is with us, as she is most Mondays. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi. How are you, David?

GREENE: I'm well, thanks. So what's the president planning to do here?

ROBERTS: Well, he's going to have a ceremony with Lilly Ledbetter there, the woman whose name is on the Equal Pay Act. His first act as president to sign, to say that the federal contractors, which is about a quarter of the U.S. workforce - people who work for the federal government - will not be able to retaliate against workers who discuss their pay, and that the Labor Department should adopt rules requiring federal contractors to put out data that shows race and sex.

These are not big moves but they are symbolic and they're designed to sort of give women more information in the workplace. But they come, as you said, at a time when the Democrats are trying to make sure that women get out to vote in this election year, particularly single women. And it also comes when there's just lots of talk about Hillary Clinton running for president energizing women.

I mean I can't go to the grocery store without people asking me about Hillary Clinton, so I can imagine what it's like for her.

GREENE: And all of that, of course, puts the focus on her and sort of whatever she has to say when the subject of sort of a woman running for office comes up. It's something she's been asked about many times in the past but it comes up again last week. How exactly did it come up?

ROBERTS: She was at a meeting of Women of the World and she was asked about the fact that when she wears a scrunchie on her head - hair that some foreign leaders think that means that she's in a bad mood. And she said: Look, women are just treated differently by the media in public life. The double standard was alive and well and she got lots of applause from that female audience on that line.

GREENE: You know, another leading woman in politics, House Democratic leader, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on this subject as well. Tell us exactly what she had to say.

ROBERTS: Same thing. She was asked if there was a double standard for women in politics and she said she never expected anything else, that you have to have a thick skin. But just about the same time that her answer was airing and she was kind of brushing it off, former CIA director Michael Hayden referred to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, as emotional in her determination to release the report on CIA interrogation techniques.

Now, that is, David, a word you would never ever hear applied to a man. So it's either a very deaf ear or an intentional jab. And either way, it raises hackles and it's part of the reason why there has been such a Run Hillary Run movement. It's women wanting someone to call men on this stuff.

GREENE: Well, Cokie, on the Republican side there seems to be a Run Jeb Run movement going on, as in Jeb Bush. I mean he seemed to be giving some indication that he might be ready to get into the fray now. I mean what's your sense?

ROBERTS: Well, over the weekend there was the 25th anniversary of his father's presidency and he said that he would make a decision by the end of this year. There are a lot of Republican, particularly Republican funders, former office holders, who want him to get into the race because they now think that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is too damaged.

But it's going to be very, very tough. His own mother, Barbara Bush, said we've had enough Bushes; if we can't find more than two or three families to run for higher office, that's silly. But now she has moderated that somewhat as the movement to get him involved is growing. She says: Well, he'd certainly be the most qualified person running.

But I think that question of two or three families is a real one, David. If it ends up a Bush/Clinton race, maybe that just sort of neutralizes it for both of them. But I think it becomes something the country really asks questions about.

GREENE: All right, Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays. Have a good week, Cokie.

ROBERTS: You too.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.