CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript - Women in the Workforce and Immigration Reform

Interview

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Debbie Stabenow
Date: June 2, 2013
Location: Unknown

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CROWLEY: A new study from the Pew research center tells us 40 percent of American mothers are the only or primary source of income for their families. Columnist Kathleen Parker writes, "women have joined the workforce in greater numbers because they've had to, not merely to hear themselves roar. Children are expensive, and one income seldom suffices."

Joining me now, two women who know a thing or two about being a working mom, Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida. Thank you both so much.

I want to talk to you about this study first, I have some other issues too, but what the Pew found out is that 25 percent of all families are led by a single mom; 44 percent of those have never been married. They -- 60 percent black or Hispanic, 49 percent high school education or less, median income $17,400 a year. This is a group on the rise. And what I found fascinating about this is I'm not sure I think Congress is enacting laws that are in sync with what's going on in the country. Go ahead, Senator.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I agree. I don't know who you want to start. But certainly it's -- these kinds of statistics should be a wakeup call for our GOP, because we need to be talking about the issues that are more representative of America. How many of us in our party are really gearing up for single women or single mom raising their kids on their own, being the sole breadwinner, and we don't have that message. We need to tune it up and step up to the realities and the changing demographics that is America today.

CROWLEY: And just policywise, Senator, just seems to me that this is -- this talks about another sea change in American life. Now, you can talk about policies that might reverse that if you want to argue that this is not, you know, obviously that young women who are undereducated, if you will, that are single and have a child have a very rough road ahead trying to make money.

CROWLEY: So you might want to go at it from that angle.

But however you want to go at it, it just seems to be to me an ignored segment.

STABENOW: Well, Candy, first of all, good morning to you and Ileana. It's good to be on this show.

I think this, first of all, represents a discussion about family income. This is about whether or not families are going to make it in the middle class, whether it's one family member working, a mom, or whether it's two family members. And I think it's complicated.

First of all, the good news is, is women have more choices. And in my own family, I see moms working, dad's staying at home by choice to take care of the kids.

But on the other hand, this is very, very clear that it's an economic issue. And still today, 77 cents on every dollar is what on average women are making. And when you look at the women that are primary caregiver because they have to be, or are working because they have to, this is an economic issue for the country.

And Ileana's right. We are not focused on -- certainly the Republican Party is not. I'm pleased that the first thing our president did was sign back in 2009 the Lily Ledbetter Act that deals with equal pay. but as we both know, we've got to go farther than that to guarantee that women are getting the value of their work in their paycheck.

Because somehow when you buy the loaf of bread or go to the gas station, you're not getting a discount on what you buy. And so it is an economic issue. And across the board where there's equal pay, whether it's making sure the child care tax credit equals what is needed for a family who is providing child care services, and we all know how incredibly expensive that is, this is really an economic issue for families.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman...

ROS-LEHTINEN: But Debbie, I would say that the GOP is very good on messaging about small businesses. And if you look at that same study, it shows that the number of women-owned small businesses has just demographically out of the chart. There are so many more upstarts of new starts of women-owned business in this past decade than ever before. And the GOP has a very good message that can be tailored to women-owned businesses because we're for lower taxes, less regulation. And I think that's the kind of demographic that we can seize on.

CROWLEY: OK senator, let me switch this up on you because there are a couple other subjects I want to try to cover.

When -- right after Newtown and the massacres of all those children in Connecticut, the president gave a speech that really one sentence sort of struck me when he said access to mental health should be as easy as access to guns is right now. Congress as we know has been unable to pass a gun ban, but I want to move this along and ask you whether you think congress can pass anything that expands access to mental health care, because we are very far from that promise.

STABENOW: Well, Candy, shame on us if we don't. In the Senate we have a bipartisan bill with Roy Blunt, Republican colleague from Missouri and I is called the Excellence in Mental Health Act. It's also being introduced in the House on a bipartisan basis that will provide the same type of funding for community health that we do for physical health.

Tomorrow, at the White House, the president is following through on a commitment he made to raise a focus and awareness. I'm pleased he's doing that. I'll be there tomorrow to focus on how we need to reduce the stigma, increase education and in the end provide services to the community.

Too many folks the sheriff will tell you are ending up in the jail when what they need is community mental health services and they aren't available.

So, let's focus on that. We ought to have as much attention on providing health care above the neck as below the neck. And right now we treat that very, very differently.

CROWLEY: Certainly, we do.

ROS-LEHTINEN: But Debbie, if I can say that the president, as in most things, is AWOL on this issue of guns and mental health, because in their own publication advertising this forum nowhere is the issue of guns advertised. So I think that the president is very good about making speeches, but when it comes to follow through, he's not there. He's just not in the arena.

So this is a great mental health forum to take away the stigma, to raise public awareness.

But Candy, you tied it to the massacre in Sandy Hook, but the president laying out this forum did not tie it to that at all.

So once again, he puts a message out there but he doesn't have the staying power to stick to it and try to win the battle as he should. CROWLEY: Let me get you both quickly on...

STABENOW: Well, problem is, Candy, let me just say, the ball's in our court. We're the ones that have to pass background checks. We're the ones that have to pass critical legislation for funding for community mental health. The ball's in our court and we need to get it done.

CROWLEY: Congressman Ros-Lehtinen, let me just turn you to one last subject, and that is immigration reform. We had some polling out from Quinnipiac University, question to them was will Democrats and Republicans in congress work together to pass immigration reform? 71 percent said no.

So, not a lot of faith that something everybody said they wanted, immigration reform, is actually going to pass. The House is going to hear from three senators who take varying views of the legislation going through the U.S. Senate.

From your perspective on the House side, what do you see as the big problem in getting what the senate is doing through your colleagues in the house?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that Senate bill is not going to move in the House. I think the speaker has made it clear that we will have our own work product. He favors a piecemeal approach, maybe have the dreamers bill which affects young people, maybe have an e-verify system which impacts employers making sure they don't hire folks that are undocumented.

I don't know if we'll have comprehensive reform or we will have it piece by piece, but that Senate bill may not even pass the Senate itself. Debbie might know.

But in the House we have made it clear that we will produce a work product. I'm optimistic, more optimistic than the American people are, that we will have a bill. And maybe it will be in as soon as two weeks from now.

CROWLEY: Senator, I've got to take it off air. I'm sorry, if you can give me a yes or no, is immigration reform going to pass in the Senate?

STABENOW: Yes, it is. And it needs to. The system is terribly broken.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much. Senator, Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. Come back.

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