Rutgers University is home to the leading center for the study of the impact of women on the American political process, CAWP, and today they tell us that with the arrival of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to Capitol Hill yesterday – she’s a Mississippi Republican – we’re at a new “record high”. But that record high is just 23 – that’s 17 Dems and 6 Republicans.
In the 115th Congress, women are under 20% representation (78 D, 28 R). Women of color in the U.S. Senate? Only 5; Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is multi-racial, Latina Catherine Cortez-Masto D-NV, and two Asian Pacific Islanders, Maizie Hirono (D-HI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
First ever: A few hours ago, Senator Duckworth announced the birth of her daughter, Maile Pearl. Duckworth is the first United States senator in history to give birth while in office. In our history only 9 House members have given birth in office. Duckworth is one of them, her first child Abigail was born in 2014, when Duckworth was in the House.
Incidentally, with the birth of Abigail in 2014, Duckworth encountered some obstacles thrown up by her own party. The senator is a former Army helicopter pilot who lost both of her legs when her chopper was shot down in Iraq in 2004; she uses a wheelchair or crutches. When her doctor ruled out travel past her eighth month, she asked to vote by proxy in the House Democratic Caucus elections, a big deal fr party direction. She was denied, creating some ugly optics for a party that promotes itself as fighting for the right of working women. You can decide for yourself if the reasons were sensible. But the backstory scuttlebutt is that those reasons were political: Duckworth backed Frank Pallone to be Ranking Member on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, Nancy Pelosi wanted Anna Eshoo. Pelosi doesn’t look good in this story, appearing to game the vote by keeping Duckworth home, and then losing that vote. Pallone is Ranking Member.
But I digress. It shouldn’t be that big a deal that a U.S. senator is a new mama today. But it is. As long as it seems sort of unusual that women do ordinary stuff like hold federal office while popping out offspring, this kind of thing will be news. The year, a record number of women are running for Congress. They won’t all get in, and some of them, uh, shouldn’t. But I have a feeling in a few years, women in federal office doing more of what women not in federal office have been doing for years will be much more commonplace.
Well, except for this one thing: Duckworth just did it at 50, with only two of her four limbs – and routinely flying 10 hours between home base Hawaii and Washington D.C.. Come on. That’s kinda badass.
Bryan, Abigail and I couldn’t be happier to welcome little Maile Pearl as the newest addition to our family and we’re deeply honored that our good friend Senator Akaka was able to bless her name for us—his help in naming both of our daughters means he will always be with us. https://t.co/KXyNf65KxA
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) April 9, 2018