Question of Personal Privilege

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Speech in Congressional Record, March 27, 2012.

Question of Personal Privilege



Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Mrs. MALONEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of personal privilege.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Chaffetz). The Chair has been made aware of a valid basis for the gentlewoman's point of personal privilege.

The gentlewoman from New York is recognized for 1 hour.

Mrs. MALONEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address an attack on my integrity and my reputation.

Last week, Representative Darrell Issa, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which I have served for many years, gave an interview to a newspaper in San Diego. The story was published on March 21, and it quoted the gentleman as accusing me of lying, knowingly and intentionally, during a hearing that was held before the Oversight Committee on February 16.

That hearing received a significant amount of public attention because it addressed the issue of insurance for reproductive health care, yet included no witness testifying on behalf of the tens of millions of women across this country who seek access to coverage for reproductive health and contraception.

I certainly understand that Members on both sides of the aisle have different viewpoints on this issue, and I'm not here to discuss the underlying policy differences we may have.

Today I ask from Mr. Issa the same commitment I ask of myself, to always strive to hear from all sides of a debate without resorting to name-calling or attacks on the personal integrity of others. Even when we disagree with what others might say, we have an obligation to listen to them and respect their viewpoints.

I am sure there are some who will accuse me of using these remarks to merely revisit the contraception issue. To the contrary, I am responding to statements published just last week by the gentleman from California, his arguments regarding my actions.

In his recent interview on the hearing, Mr. Issa said this, to be absolutely clear, and I quote:

      Carolyn Maloney then made the famous statement, Where are 
    the women? That was an outright lie, and she knew it when she 
    said it.

First of all, I would like to point out that what I actually offered was an outright question. I asked it as I sat there looking directly at an all-male panel, the panel that you see in this now-famous picture. It is a picture that I believe is worth a thousand words.

And as I look at this picture again, my question is as pertinent and legitimate today as it was back then. Look at this picture and tell me, Where are the women? If you can point to one woman on this first panel, then I will happily withdraw and offer my apologies to Mr. Issa.

Just to make sure we have my question in context, let me repeat remarks that I made that morning that Mr. Issa and some found so objectionable. I said, and I quote:

      What I want to know is, Where are the women? I look at this 
    panel, and I don't see one single individual representing the 
    tens of millions of women across this country who want and 
    need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care 
    services, including family planning and contraception. Where 
    are the women?

I still maintain, without fear of any contradiction, there is no one on this panel who is a woman, or who represents the tens of millions of women who want and need insurance basic coverage for family planning.

Now, if Mr. Issa believes or tries to argue that that statement is somehow false because there were two women witnesses who appeared later that day on a second and separate panel, I would draw his attention to the fact that those witnesses were not there to represent the woman's point of view that is upheld primarily by the Democratic Party on this particular issue.

Those Republican-appointed witnesses were there only to represent the interests of institutions. So even in surveying both panels, I don't see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across this country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.

In conclusion, I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, rising for a point of personal privilege is sometimes accompanied by a call for a personal apology. Earlier today, Mr. Issa apologized to me, and he sent me this letter just an hour or two ago. I am encouraged by his actions, and I accept his apology.

In the fallout of that unfortunate hearing, women were called far worse than liars. I know what I said that day, and I know it to be true. But I do think the Democratic witness, Sandra Fluke, and the women of America are owed an apology, an apology for denying them a voice, an apology for denying them a seat at the table. It was wrong then, and it is wrong each time that it happens. And it is especially wrong when women's health, women's lives, and women's rights are being discussed. And to cavalierly dismiss or deny that fact does greater damage to the fabric of democracy than words can ever redress.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).