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Female senators, candidates plan victory lap on Blunt amendment

March 01, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) speaks with other Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill after they defeated the Blunt amendment regarding contraception.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) speaks with other Senate Democrats on Capitol… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington —

Fresh from the Senate's rejection of a GOP-led measure to roll back new rules on contraceptive coverage, the historic number of Democratic women running for U.S. Senate will take a victory lap with a Western states fundraising swing.

The tour will bring almost all of the 11 Democratic female candidates -- six incumbent senators and five challengers -- for stops in Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver, including one hosted by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple's Steve Jobs, in San Francisco. The women have also released a new video making their case.

"If you don't like what Republicans are doing, send a woman to the Senate," says a online ad featuring the 11 women. "In fact, send them all."

Both parties have seized on the controversial Senate bill as a fundraising tool, as Republicans cater to social conservatives who object to the Obama administration's new contraceptive rule as an attack on religious freedoms.

Democrats, though, have found particular political value in portraying the legislation as turning back the clock on women's healthcare and reproductive rights – especially as House Republicans convened an all-male panel to discuss the issue.  

Narrowly defeated in the Senate on Thursday, the legislation would have blocked a new Obama administration rule that requires employer-based insurance policies to provide free preventive healthcare. The rule provides a waiver for churches and other organizations whose members object on moral grounds; facing backlash from Catholic voters, the White House further compromised by having insurers, rather than employers pick up the costs.

All Republican senators, except retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted for the measure. Three Democrats also broke from their party to join the GOP effort.

Changing the look of the Senate is a prospect Sen. Patty Murray of Washington sees as an opportunity this cycle, much the way the number of women tripled to six when she was elected in 1992's historic "Year of the Women."

"We were not running on women's issues a the time," she said. "We were running on the voices of women who want to have a say in foreign affairs and transportation and everything in between."

Seventeen women now serve in the Senate – 12 Democrats and five Republicans.

Democratic challengers Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, Shelley Berkley in Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts are expected to join the tour, along with the six incumbent senators up for reelection.

Republicans are also fielding leading female candidates in Hawaii, where former Gov. Linda Lingle is running, and New Mexico, where former Rep. Heather Wilson is making another run for Senate.

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