Have they no decency? The United States Senate on April 11 resembled a circus sideshow, practicing the old shell game of now you see it, now you don’t. While on paper they passed a cut resembling the House’s $550 billion giveaway to millionaires, Senators promised that they didn’t mean it and would hold the line at the already-indecent $350 billion cut. A close inspection of their postures may well show their fingers crossed behind their backs.

Women are tired of those sorry promises. We’ve heard them before and all we’ve seen from them are empty cupboards, fewer jobs and reduced circumstances. Where is the voice for our concerns, our future, our health, our children’s safety and well-being?

With a one-vote margin provided by Vice President Cheney, the Senate bowed to the will of the President and the run-amok leaders of the House. Reminiscent of the one-vote margin that propelled George W. Bush into the White House, the country’s budget and tax policy is being determined by a similar one-vote margin, cast by a man whose primary interest appears to be gaining non-competitive federal contracts for his former company, Halliburton, to rebuild the country that has been razed under his direction.

States and cities are closing down after-school programs, taking families off Medicaid, and cutting vital human needs programs. There are no jobs to pull impoverished families into economic security, and we are losing more jobs daily. Welfare mothers are being required to work more hours – whether or not additional shifts are available for them to work, and whether or not they have adequate child care for the additional hours.

Our nation is at war, for better or worse. The cost is at least $80 billion dollars and could be as much as $200 billion. This is NOT the time for any tax cut, not $350 billion, not $550 billion. Where is the sanity and compassion? Where is the common sense?

We call on the House and the Senate to shed the false promises and make real commitments to their constituents – not just to their large donors or their own post-Congressional pocketbooks. Scratch your junkets this spring and go home to your states and districts and talk to the real people you represent. Come back and work on a tax bill that puts real money into real people’s pockets. Work to improve programs that give everyone in this country – not just the wealthy ones – a real step up.

The 211 House members and 50 Senators who heeded our real needs and attempted to provide a saner budget with some semblance of fairness deserve our thanks. We will work to readjust the thinking of the others or replace them at the polls in November 2004.

Kim Gandy is president of the National Organization for Women, www.now.org