Rep. Boehner's "Backroom Deals" Will Shut Women Out

October 06, 2010 12:06 am ET — Melinda Warner

House Minority Leader (and future Speaker of the House if Republicans get their way) John Boehner (R-OH) has been railing against "backroom deals" for nearly two years. 

But Boehner, with his paranoid shrieks about deals made "behind closed doors," doesn't have much of a leg to stand on.  Because, if he were to become Speaker, John Boehner would continue his own particular brand of backroom dealing.

Only instead of a "backroom," it's a golf course.

And instead of being "behind closed doors," it excludes women — not just from playing but, with few exceptions, from even stepping foot on the premises.    

Boehner's golf course of choice when he's in Washington, DC is the Burning Tree course in Bethesda, MD.  A mere $75,000 initiation fee and $500 in monthly dues pays for John Boehner to golf in an estrogen-free environment.  As ESPN reported:

Burning Tree, you see, is an all-male organism, the classic old-boy, blue-blood men's club. The initiation fee is $75,000 and membership -- capped around 600, including honorariums and golfers past their playing days -- is by invitation only. The membership list never has been made public. But if you are a woman with the financial goods and the game, forget about it.

All-male clubs are nothing new — nor are all-female clubs.  But the lengths to which this particular club goes to exclude women are pretty astounding.  Burning Tree is so exclusively male that women are only permitted to step foot onto the property twice a year, as part of pre-arranged activities.  And, again from ESPN, the club's efforts to ensure women stay far away exceed any basic one-gender club rules:

There are no women's facilities at the club. Female taxi drivers are not allowed inside the gate. When a woman flying a small plane crashed near the 18th hole in the 1950s, Burning Tree employees quickly secured an area around the pilot and wreckage until the police arrived, when she was removed from the barbwire-protected grounds. When a female Secret Service agent announced herself at the gate in the mid-1980s -- she was working a security detail for the visiting Australian prime minister -- she, too, was turned away...

Each December, however, wives of members are permitted to visit the pro shop -- so that they might select gifts for their husbands. The hours are 9 to 11 a.m. on weekdays, by appointment only. There are cashmere sweaters, with the imperial Burning Tree crest, golf equipment and Christmas figurines.

"I'm fortunate to be able to let the women come in," said Max Elbin, Burning Tree's pro emeritus told the Washington Post in 1995. "I tried to get a cocktail party, but they said, 'No, we don't want the women around for cocktail parties.'"

Today, Burning Tree is a monument to progressive thinking: the women are allowed to attend a spring cocktail party.

Not only is John Boehner comfortable with spending close to $100,000 on membership to a club that excludes women, but he also admits to golfing with lobbyists (presumably male) and that relationship affecting his Hill meetings.  If Boehner replaces Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, much more will be lost than the position of the most powerful female political figure in American history.  Women might even lose the ability to have the same access to the Speaker as the men he golfs with.

And it isn't just the prospect of higher-profile misogyny on Boehner's part.  The last two years have been full of GOP obstruction of legislation meant to help millions of Americans and we can expect their behavior to continue.  Here are just a few examples of bills Boehner and Republicans have blocked or opposed:

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act That Eased Time Constraints On Equal Pay Lawsuits

A Bill To Close Tax Loopholes That Encourage Companies To Ship Jobs Overseas

A Bill That Would Enable Lending To Small Businesses

An Effort To Provide Financial Aid To States Facing Budget Gaps, Including Money To Prevent Hundreds Of Thousands Of Teachers, Firefighters, And Police Officers From Being Laid Off 

A Bill To Provide Funds For "Medical Treatment To Rescue Workers And Residents Of New York City Who Suffered Illnesses From The Toxic Dust And Debris At Ground Zero"

Read more about Boehner's agenda HERE