Former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R) was the first — and only — woman to represent Rhode Island in Congress. Over five terms in the House (from 1981 to 1991), she helped pass key environmental, health, and gender-equity laws, including the Economic Equity and the Pension Equity Acts. Like former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO) and former Rep. Connie Morella(R-MD), Schneider told ThinkProgress there is no longer a place for centrists like herself in the modern Republican Party:
THINKPROGRESS: Why do you think today’s Republican Congresswomen are so much less progressive on issues relating to women’s health and safety?
SCHNEIDER: Because they are afraid of losing in the primaries. The have drunk the Kool-Aid that makes them think it is more important to win, than to do what is right by ending discrimination. The conservatives have co-opted the primaries and in order to win, they appear to do whatever it will take. Clearly, based on [the voting records of the 24 current Republican Congresswomen], they are NOT voting in the best interest of all women and men, because when women lose (on fair pay, etc.) families lose!
THINKPROGRESS: Would you have felt at home in the Women’s Policy Committee with these 24?
SCHNEIDER: Not at all! Congress is elected to represent all of the people in one’s district, to begin, one’s state, country and the world. As a Congresswoman, my job was not to represent my Party or my contributors. My job was to vote for the “good of the whole.”
Schneider says that there is “obviously not” a room for centrist women in today’s Republican Party, noting that “moderates have been pushed out in every primary” or retired to avoid being bullied by leadership. President Ronald Reagan, she claims, “would be embarrassed” by what has happened to the party. She is “disappointed and sad that the Republican women have chosen to form the Women’s Policy Committee to divide and fracture the Congress further. It is only by working together that the Congress can be effective … This is merely posturing so that the Republican party might stop hemorrhaging the women’s vote.”