On The Record: Kamala Harris Announces New Policy

By: Rebecca Johnson

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced Wednesday that she is reintroducing the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act, legislation to address persistent biases and shortcomings in our nation’s medical system that have contributed to the ongoing crisis in Black maternal mortality.

Black women are three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as white women, according to the CDC.

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” Harris said in a statement.

The proposal, aimed at tackling racial disparities by investing $150 million in programs and training, is aided this time around by companion legislation introduced by Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina.

In a tweet Wednesday, the 2020 presidential candidate said, “Unconscious bias is common, but when you are a health care provider dealing with a life in your hands, it’s critical to recognize and check that bias. I just reintroduced my Maternal CARE Act with @RepAdams to combat implicit bias in our health care delivery system.”

Sixteen senators are cosponsoring the bill, including 2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Cory Booker (D-NJ); and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

At a rally in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sen. Harris previewed a plan to close the gender pay gap in an effort to combat wage discrimination on a federal level. Full details were released through a spokesperson on Monday.

This major policy proposal would proactively require large companies with 100 or more employees to obtain an “equal pay certification” every two years, to show that they are paying men and women the same for analogous work, her campaign said. Previous pay gap legislation asked that workers report or sue an employer if discrepancies were a concern.

“For too long, we’ve put the burden entirely on workers to hold corporations accountable for pay discrimination through costly lawsuits that are increasingly difficult to prove,” Harris wrote on her campaign website Monday. “We’ve let corporations hide their wage gaps, but forced women to stand up in court just to get the pay they’ve earned.”

Under Harris’ plan, companies that do not meet the equal pay certification standards would be fined 1 (one) percent of their average daily profits for every 1 (one) percent difference in pay.

The proposal is a continued focus on economic issues for Harris, who has pledged to raise teachers’ pay by an average of $13,500 in her first term; proposed a number of executive actions regarding gun control; and set forth her signature policy, the Livable Incomes for Families Today (LIFT) Act, which aims to provide a refundable tax credit worth up to $6,000 for eligible households.

This week, Sen. Harris was expected to further highlight her economic message in parts of Western Iowa, but postponed her trip for a Senate vote on a $19.1 billion disaster aid package. The measure, which was single-handedly delayed Thursday by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), would likely have provided disaster relief funds to areas including Iowa, California, and Puerto Rico.

Much of Western Iowa, where Senator Harris was set to visit, has experienced record flooding this year. As well, two tornadoes touched down in Western Iowa Wednesday morning, killing one and injuring one, according to the National Weather Service.

Rebecca Johnson is a copywriter, content creator, and website developer. She is a married mother of one who serves as vice-president of a nonprofit board, dabbles in genealogy research, and fosters rescue pets.