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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Column: Haley Davis

Since this is my first political column in The Aggie, I thought focusing on a relatively green political figure would make for an appropriate start. And since I want to keep things light, I thought I’d focus on newly-minted Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), who we all know and love as a former Saturday Night Live cast member.

Franken proposed an amendment to the 2009 Defense Appropriations bill that would, according to the Huffington Post, “[Stop] federal funding for those defense contractors who used mandatory arbitration clauses to deny victims of assault the right to bring their case to court.” Former comedian takes on Congress with baby steps. This sounds like a good thing, right?

Let me give you some context before you decide: Jamie Leigh Jones, an employee at KBR, Inc. (a former subsidiary of Halliburton), was drugged and brutally gang-raped by her American coworkers while overseas in 2005. After the assault, her fellow employees locked the severely injured Jones in a storage unit so she couldn’t report them to company officials. After bravely bringing the attack to light when she was finally released, Jones probably assumed the men who assaulted her would be brought to justice. Unfortunately, her contract with KBR made this impossible.

Anyway, back to Franken’s amendment, the passage of which would mean we would no longer give federal money to companies who protect rapists. Is it a good thing or not? The amendment to the bill was, in Jon Stewart’s words, an easy “slam-dunk.” You’d think that limiting sexual assault through legislation would be one of those “gimme” senatorial moves, like when a congressperson throws up an anti-child-molester bill or claims to be “tough on crime.”

The response he got in congress was different than you might expect. To hear the opposition tell it, you’d think Franken had been lining that bill with pork like there was no tomorrow. Instead of embracing Franken’s amendment, 30 senators voted against it: all Republicans, all males. As Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said, the amendment would be, “…a major, fundamental change in U.S. labor law, and I believe it would be very detrimental to employees to eliminate arbitration as an option.”

Detrimental to employees? More detrimental than rape and imprisonment? Apparently so, according to the Republican senators who voted “nay”. Perhaps protecting capitalism is more important than protecting people like Jones. But don’t worry; these senators are concerned with protecting capitalism as an ideology. They’re not concerned with specific capitalist entities that might benefit from shooting down Franken’s amendment – entities like Boeing, IBM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Franken is just a comedian. Shouldn’t we trust seasoned political veterans over him, people like Sen. Sam “No abortions even in cases of rape” Brownback (R-Kans.) and Sen. Jeff “Pro-torture” Sessions (R-Ala.)? Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) loves capitalism enough to want to screw over the victims of interested corporations.

Unfortunately for McCain et al, Franken’s amendment passed with a vote of 68-30. And unfortunately for me, what I thought was going to be a simple column about a new senator turned out to be a shocking example of the current Republican Party’s misogyny … so much for starting out this year without using the “m” word. But I only used it once, and for a feminist interested in politics, I think that’s pretty good.

HALEY DAVIS has a link to the rest of the senators who voted against Franken’s amendment for those who are interested. E-mail her at hrdavis@ucdavis.edu if you’d like to see it.


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