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Groups Say Democratic Congress Should Help on ERA, Other Issues

January 16, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sixteen women’s groups said Friday they are optimistic that Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will look favorably on eight issues of importance to them, despite continued opposition in the White House.

Leaders of several of the groups said they were buoyed by 1986 elections in which the Democrats increased their hold on the House and regained control of the Senate.

″It’s very realistic to believe in the next two years we’ll have a change″ toward issues such as pay equity and the Equal Rights Amendment, said Sarah Harder, president of the American Association of University Women.

″President Reagan has been able to take a dodge because these bills have not reached his desk,″ she said, adding that it was time Reagan was forced to take a stand on issues of importance to feminists.

Leaders of the 16 groups met Thursday with congressional leaders sympathetic to their issues, including Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif., the House Democratic whip; Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.; Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee; Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Ore., a longtime supporter of abortion rights,; and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., whom the women’s groups referred to as a ″soul sister.″

The eight issues at the top of the groups’ joint agenda are passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, approval of a federal pay equity bill, a national policy for unpaid maternity and paternity leave, fair welfare reform, an increase in the minimum wage, federal funding for abortion, affordable child care and the ERA.

″I cannot believe that in 1987 I have to stand here and say once again the ERA is on the women’s agenda,″ said Mary Ray Oaken, president of Business and Professional Women. ″It’s a crying shame that in the year this country celebrates the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, that Constitution still excludes one-half of this nation’s population.″

A National Woman’s Party survey of the 100 senators indicated 60 supported the ERA, with 16 maybes and 13 opposed. There was no immediate response from the remaining 11 senators. A two-thirds majority is needed for passage.

The party is in the process of surveying the House.

The other 13 women’s groups are the League of Women Voters, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Political Caucus, National Women’s Conference Committee, National Women’s Law Center, Older Women’s League, Project on Equal Education Rights, Women’s Equity Action League, Wider Opportunities for Women, Women’s Legal Defense Fund, Women’s Vote Project and B’nai Brith Women.

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