Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is on break for the next week, and she has wasted no time conducting photo-ops with the businesses that she believes will help burnish her image as a great supporter of women, business and science. She won’t be holding a Town Hall, however, because she might be asked about her actions in the three days leading up to the break.
In the past three days, for example, she:
1. Opened the door to defunding Planned Parenthood by repealing a Health and Human Services Rule that prevented states from denying Title X funding to health centers on any basis other than their ability to provide services. The Rule stated that “By law, Title X services are provided to low-income individuals at no or reduced cost. Services provided through Title X-funded health centers assist in preventing unintended pregnancies and achieving pregnancies that result in positive birth outcomes. These services include contraceptive services, pregnancy testing and counseling, preconception health services, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), HIV testing and referral for treatment, services to aid with achieving pregnancy, basic infertility services, and screening for cervical and breast cancer.”
Barbara Comstock was one of 230 Members who passed H. J. Res. 43, which disapproves that rule, which “shall have no force or effect.” This vote is in direct contradiction to her statement on how she plans to repair the Affordable Care Act (ACA). When asked about her plan at her tele-Town Hall on February 8th, she said, we need to “[increase] the support for community health centers especially for lower income populations who need one-stop shopping type care, like vaccines, WIC, counseling, birth control. Those centers have been hugely successful.” Her vote to defund any Title X community health center for any reason came just eight days later. tele-town-hall-2-8-2017
2. Moved to strike down a rule prohibiting the hunting of predator wildlife in National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. This Rule was enacted to clarify “that predator control is not allowed on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, unless necessary to meet refuge purposes, federal laws or Service policy, and is based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern. In addition, the rule defines natural diversity and predator control and the process that will be used for considering predator control, prohibits certain methods and means for non-subsistence harvest of predators, and updates the procedures for closing an area or restricting an activity on refuges in Alaska.”
When questioned by a constituent who was upset by the prospect of recreational hunters now being allowed to take wolves and coyotes during denning season, bait bears, hunt them from aircraft and snare them in steel-jawed traps, Comstock, who joined 224 of her colleagues in the passage of H. J. Res. 69, replied that it was, basically, a “states’ rights” issue, and that the new Rule needed to be struck down because it conflicted with earlier statutes. However, it is clear from reading the text of the actual Rule that the process leading up to its passage included nine public hearings, thousands of recorded comments, and coordination between the community, wildlife scientists, and eight Native American tribes.
3. Voted to allow states to withhold unemployment benefits based on drug testing results by passing H. J. Res. 42, which “nullifies the rule finalized by the Department of Labor on August 1, 2016, relating to establishing, for state unemployment compensation program purposes, occupations that regularly conduct drug testing.”
“It’s appalling that instead of helping people who have lost their jobs, the Republican leadership in Congress is choosing to drug test them,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s shameful that Congress would demonize people who use drugs, especially when there has been so much recent rhetoric about helping people who struggle with opioid and other forms of addiction. The reality is that people who receive public assistance are no more likely to use drugs than the general population. These drug testing programs have proven again and again to accomplish nothing and are a big waste of tax dollars,” said Smith.
Comstock has recently employed that same rhetoric, herself, at her tele-Town Hall. When a constituent caller asked: “What is Congress doing to combat the heroin and opiate addiction?” Barbara responded: “We have money to deal with this huge problem in our area as well as all across the country. It’s everywhere. This has been a top priority for me. It needs comprehensive addiction and help for recovery. We have provided money for this in the pipeline, and also for mental health issues that may also be present… We can’t afford not to do this and will save a lot of lives and families if the whole community comes together to work on this.” Her vote to take money away from those afflicted by addiction came just a week after making this statement.
Representative Comstock’s words are meant to reassure her constituents that she is working hard for them, in a reasonable, centrist way. Unfortunately, her actions belie her words at almost every turn. Paying lip-service to increasing community health and healthcare affordability, but then turning around and defunding Title X health centers is nothing short of outrageous.
Extolling the virtues of her plan to increase financial aid to those individuals who have been affected by the opiate crisis, and then voting to take away their eligibility for unemployment benefits is beyond hypocritical.
Explaining away a vote to allow wildlife cubs to be killed in their dens because of states’ rights, despite the community-driven process that resulted in the original rule, flies in the face of reason.
If I were your Representative, and I had done those things, I’d be hiding from you too.