Record number of women sworn into new U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 3, 2013 2:05pm EST

U.S. congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who lost both of her legs to injuries sustained while serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in combat in Iraq, gestures as she addresses delegates during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who lost both of her legs to injuries sustained while serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in combat in Iraq, gestures as she addresses delegates during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If the new U.S. Congress that convened on Thursday turns out to be less confrontational, more willing to reach reasoned, bipartisan compromise, less ... well ... on steroids, there could be a reason.

A record number of women were sworn in as members of the 113th Congress as a result of elections last November 6.

The 80 women members of the House of Representatives are joining a total of 20 female senators - a record crop for both chambers, which have been dominated by men - white men - from the time the first U.S. Congress was seated in 1789.

The 100 women of the 113th U.S. Congress - out of 535 members - will be thrown into a pressure cooker with huge fights already brewing over reducing federal budget deficits, imposing new controls on gun ownership and reforming badly outdated immigration laws and the tax code.

Last month, in the midst of a bitter budget and tax battle known as the "fiscal cliff," two female senators told ABC News that if women were in charge, things would have been fixed much more easily.

"I think if we (women) were in charge of the Senate and of the administration, we would have a budget deal by now," said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. "With all deference to our male colleagues, women's styles tend to be more collaborative," she said.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill agreed. "By nature we are less confrontational and more collaborative," the Missouri lawmaker said. "Not only do we want to work in a bipartisan way, we do it."

MEN STILL MORE INFLUENTIAL

This record number of women in the new Congress will get a chance to have their impact. But for the most part, the men will still be in control. Almost all of the top leadership positions in the House and Senate are held by men, as are most committee heads.

The most famous female member of Congress is Nancy Pelosi, the only woman to ever hold the job of House Speaker. The California Democrat served in that top job from 2007-2010 before losing it in a Republican takeover of the House in 2011.

Interestingly, she is often described as having ruled the House with an iron-fist.

Pelosi is being joined by some women with colorful backgrounds.

One of the new members of the House is Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an ex-Obama administration official and the first member of the U.S. Congress born in Thailand. But she is better known as an Iraq war hero, having lost both of her legs and suffering other wounds.

Another Tammy made history as well on Thursday as Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, became the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate and the first female senator from her home state.

For the record: Women serving in Congress are much more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.

Of the 20 female senators - three more than last year - 17 are Democrats. Only Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are Republicans.

In the House, 61 of the female members are Democrats, up from 53 the previous Congress, while 19 are Republicans, down from 24 last year.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Vicki Allen)

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Comments (4)
Bagehot wrote:
This is unsurprising given that women, as well as independents and Latinos, have accelerated past the average in voter participation. For the health of a two party system, the GOP needs to drop the culture war. They’ve clearly lost. Conservatism reached its zenith under two of the last three presidents to get at least 51% in two elections: Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.Defense and business first, with a calm awareness of social change (Ike backed desegregation with military force, and it was Nancy Reagan who made mainstreamed the fight against AIDS).
Oh, the third president to do it? Not sure: I think it was some black guy….

Jan 03, 2013 2:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sylvan wrote:
Just not enough old angry white guys to continue the hegemony but they will certainly “rage against the dying of the night” and we will “be amazed by the strength of the fury, in the final hour”. The House has devolved into a barroom brawl of the GOP girlie men with their big beer bellies, toupees, jet black dyed hair and spray tans….a putrid pathetic group of stupid old geezers, who just re-elected the raging, stumbling, profanity spewing, flamboyantly weeping, drunken Bonehead. Nice going, rednecks clowns.

Jan 03, 2013 3:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
“I think if we (women) were in charge of the Senate and of the administration, we would have a budget deal by now,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. “With all deference to our male colleagues, women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” she said.

Isn’t that a sexist statement?

Jan 03, 2013 6:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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