Waters rails against GOP assault on women

‘Come on, Tea Party, let’s get it on!’
The Colorado Statesman

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a long-serving California Democrat, blasted congressional Republicans for what she called a “full-scale assault on women’s rights” at a Democratic fundraiser on Saturday in northeast Denver.

The so-called “war on women,” she told a room full of House District 7 Democrats and their supporters inside a packed ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel-Stapleton, was just one front of a broader attack led by the GOP.

“The war on women is just the latest salvo Republicans have launched in what is essentially a war on the middle class,” she said during a fiery speech. The GOP wants to turn back the clock on economic gains, consumer protections and access to health care, she said.


State Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, right, presents U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., with a book of John Fielder photographs at the House District 7 Unity Dinner on June 23 in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Health care reform is about the freedom to live a healthy life. Unfortunately, there’s some who want to take this hard-fought freedom away,” she said, haranguing Republicans for a constitutional challenge to the law despite its foundation on Republican proposals.

“It’s because a decision was made to attack whatever this president does,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, says she fears that congressional Republicans might block a deal on tax rates and spending levels later this year, potentially sending the country over a financial cliff, during a talk with reporters before she spoke at the House District 7 Unity Dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

If Republicans succeed in repealing the law — ruled constitutional in a Supreme Court decision released on Thursday — then Americans will be back to square one when it comes to hard-won rights to health care.
The old days weren’t so pretty, Waters said, evoking peals of laughter from the crowd.

Dolores Atencio and Vivian Stovall, a vice chair of the state Democratic Party, talk during a reception before the House District 7 Unity Dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“I recall that there were children who never saw a dentist,” she said. “And when they had a cavity in those days, the old folks would take cotton and turpentine, and put it in that cavity and rock those children to sleep and try to stop the pain, because they couldn’t afford a dentist.”

It wasn’t just youngsters who suffered.

Denver Democratic Party vice chair Susan Rogers and Denver Councilwoman Robin Kniech mingle at the House District 7 Unity Dinner on June 23 at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“I was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and we were like everybody else in those years — we didn’t have very much,” she said. “And I can recall eavesdropping on my parents and older women as they talked about menopause. That’s when they said women just went crazy, just lost their mind. There was no such thing as seeing a doctor, there was no such thing as medicine, there was no such thing as consultation and advice.”

Buffalo Soldiers of the American West re-enactors Jonas Felix, Jerome Wilford, Paul McCowan and Kent Wyatt prepare to present colors at the House District 7 Unity Dinner on June 23 at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Waters was introduced by state Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and feted by a host of area Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, state Sens. Michael Johnston and Pat Steadman, state Reps. Mark Ferrandino and Rhonda Fields, and Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher. Waters attended the local dinner in part because, organizers said, she is related to former Aurora Councilwoman Edna Mosley.

Morris Price, district director for U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, stands with his boss and state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, at the House District 7 Unity Dinner on June 23 in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Noting that one of President Barack Obama’s first official acts was to sign legislation allowing women to sue for equal pay, Waters said Republicans stood in the way of further reforms she said were needed.

“I thought the war on women got personal when they talked about our paychecks, but it got worse when they came after our basic right to access to contraception,” she said as the crowd murmured its approval. “Let me just say that it’s a tragedy in 2012 when we’re still debating the right of a woman to control her own reproductive choice.”

Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher and Isabella Allen visit before sitting down to eat at the House District 7 Unity Dinner, an annual event Allen launched in 2008.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

It comes down to basic matters of fairness and access to power over Americans’ own lives, she said.

“In the final analysis, what people in this country want is they want the country we have been told we can have,” she said.

Waters urged the crowd of activists and elected officials to keep up the fight and added that she has to buck herself up sometimes in the face of Republican intransigence.

“Guess what — I go to bed some nights a little bit disgusted, and sometimes try to figure out what it is that makes some men tick,” she said. “And I think, ‘My God, what is this coming to?’ But after a good night sleep, I wake up the next day, and I say, ‘Come on, Tea Party, let’s get it on!’”

Speaking with reporters before the dinner, Waters said she wasn’t optimistic that House Republicans would live up to their end of a budget deal that needs to be resolved by the lame-duck Congress near the end of the year.

“I wish I could predict there was going to be a deal,” she said, shaking her head at the prospect of a standoff similar to last summer’s showdown over the national debt.

After serving in the minority since an invigorated GOP took over the House two years ago, she said that it could be too much to expect that congressional Republicans set aside ideological extremism when the chips are down.

“I think Republicans are precisely what you see in the media,” she said. “They have pretty well defined themselves — they’re no different on a day-to-day basis than they are in the national media in the way that they talk and the way that they act.” Waters said she thought that House Speaker John Boehner was hamstrung by more conservative members prone to brinksmanship and that the GOP caucus didn’t have the kind of moderate Republicans that once roamed the halls of Congress.

“I think that the recent elections have shown that those people who consider themselves more centrist are leaving or getting beaten,” she said.

Republicans blasted Democrats for bringing Waters — the subject of an ongoing congressional ethics probe — to Colorado.

“Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ name has become so synonymous with ‘unethical’ that it’s puzzling why she would be the Democratic Party’s choice as an honored speaker,” said Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call in a statement. He added: “Colorado Democrats should be running for the hills when Maxine Waters comes to town rather than rolling out the red carpet for her.”

Waters dismissed the criticism. She was invited to speak by Williams, she said, “And that’s that.”

It was the fifth time House District 7 Democrats gathered for their Unity Dinner, and the event’s founder scored it a success. One-time Democratic district captain Isabella Allen — honored with the state party’s Lifetime
Achievement Award a few years ago — said she launched the annual get-together in order to bring far-flung district residents into the political fold.

Residents of newer and fast-growing parts of the district — in the so-called “Far Northeast” region, including Green Valley Ranch, Gateway Park and Montbello — weren’t very involved in the historically powerful East Denver Democratic establishment, and Allen said she thought that a dinner was one way to motivate them.
“We wanted to get them engaged, let them feel like they’re part of this political process, to let them know their vote means something,” she said. “We’re not just there to get their vote, but we want to be of help.”

It’s a two-way street, Allen added. It’s important to look at the Far Northeast as more than just a pool of reliable Democratic votes.

“What we did is realize that we’re not just here to say, ‘I just want your vote,’ but to say, ‘I’m here to help you, you can lean on us, just as we’re leaning on you for a vote,’” she said. “And it has worked.”

—Ernest@coloradostatesman.com