House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) released a statement on Tuesday saying she ordered that menstrual products be available for purchase at the House office supply store using the members’ representational allowance (MRA).
“As Chairperson, this is the first inquiry I have received on this matter and I have already taken steps to make these products available in the women’s restroom near the House Floor,” the statement read.
Lofgren did not specify when menstrual products will be available for purchase at the House office supply store.
Her statement was in response to Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) and Grace Meng (N.Y.), who issued a letter a day earlier asking Lofgren to clarify the House’s policy on using funds to purchase menstrual products. The letter also asked her to make such products available at the office supply store.
The letter cited an instance in June when the House Finance Office denied Maloney the ability to use his MRA to buy a box of tampons for his office. Each congressional office gets an annual MRA budget to pay staffers, fund official travel and purchase office supplies. Purchase of necessary hygienic products is allowed, but he said the language concerning feminine hygiene products was vague.
“The whole ordeal was ridiculous,” he said in a statement. “Like I said repeatedly last year, saying tampons are superfluous but other hygiene products like hand sanitizer and tissues are totally necessary reinforces the idea that our rules are written by men, for men, and that women are merely second-class citizens on Capitol Hill.”
The three lawmakers applauded Lofgren’s quick response, calling her decision a step toward gender equality in the workplace.
“While this decision will benefit Congressional staff, access to menstrual products is a global equity issue,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Tuesday. “The inability to access or afford menstrual products, known as ‘period poverty,’ has a wide ranging impact, from leading girls to miss school to creating significant health risks.”