113th Congress to Have Record Number of Women

Posted on December 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

House RepublicansCount them—20 female senators and 78 female House members. When the 113th Congress convenes in January it will have the largest number of women in U.S. history and just as significantly, white men will no longer be a majority in the House Democratic caucus.

Despite this new looking Congress, one picture unfortunately remains stubbornly unchanged. Count them—0 (zero). That is the number of women and minorities who will chair the major House committees in the next Congress. Not one women or minority was included in the 19-member House committee chair lineup recently announced by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The GOP’s introduction of their major House committee leaders—all white men—could have doubled as a casting call for an episode of Mad Men, the wildly popular TV show set in the less than enlightened 1960s.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) upon learning of the committee chairs in the GOP-dominated House tweeted: “Disappointed to see House committee chairmanships in the 113th Congress will not include a single woman.”

In the wake of significant pushback Boehner tapped five-term lawmaker Rep. Candice Miller (R-Michigan) to head the House Administration Committee charged with among other duties, the orientation of new members and office assignments.

To be fair, House Republicans were at a distinct disadvantage in terms of diversity when it came to their chair selections since chairmanships as a rule are based on seniority on the committee and as the Huffington Post recently noted—most committees don’t have Republican women or minorities at senior levels. When the new Congress convenes House Republicans will count 20 women as members while 61 women fill the Democratic House ranks.

In the upper chamber come January, women will hold 20 seats setting a new high water mark. Led by Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown, women won senate races across the nation. With the election of Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) the Senate has its first Asian-American woman, while Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is the Senate’s first openly gay member.

In the 2012 election, women, who make up the country’s largest voting block, flexed their substantial political muscle. Case in point: New Hampshire, where voters elected Democrat Maggie Hassan governor, making the Granite State the first state ever to have its top five elected officials (governor, two Senators, and two House Representatives) women. Still, according to the Women &Politics Institute at American University, even though 2012 was a “banner year” for female candidates and elected officials, women are still under-represented in Congress and state houses. “Concerns about democratic legitimacy and political accountability necessitate that we continue to examine and work to ameliorate gender disparities in office holding,” reads the WPI report Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics.

“When women are part of the negotiation and are part of the decision-making, the outcomes are just better,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D—New York) in a Huffington Post interview. We, at Turner GPA, couldn’t agree more.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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