As the 113th Congress sets to work, the Senate and the House now represent more women and racial minorities than it used to include before.
The new Congress includes plenty of women (101 across both chambers, counting three nonvoting members), as well as Latinos and Asians and Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
However, it was the rise of the female legislator — 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House — that had the Capitol thrumming with excited potential on Thursday, reports The New York Times.
“It was a decision,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in an interview about boosting the number of Democratic women in Congress.
“We made a decision a long time ago that we were going to try to expand the number. We made a decision for women to help women, and also for the Democrats as a party to help recruit women and help fund campaigns.”
Though they are not still a majority, new Congress women and experts who have watched the rise in political power of women predict that they will make a difference.
“Women bring a breadth of experience that will be important to the work of every committee,” said Kaptur, who is dean of women in the House.
“They bring life experience and perceptions that have been missing here. I hope the operations of Congress will change and be more productive and less contentious.”
“We’re less on testosterone,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein told reporters of her class, which will overtake one of the least-productive Congresses the country has seen in over 60 years.
“We don’t have that need to always be confrontational. And I think we’re problem solvers, and I think that’s what this country needs,” she added.
Feinstein was supported by Sen. Susan Collins, who suggested that she and her female fellows will have a great influence in legislation as they tend to be “more collaborative” than their male counterparts.
Sen. Claire McCaskill agreed with her colleagues, explaining that women are naturally “less confrontational.”
By the way, the 113 Congress’s women are not alone in thinking that their presence will lend to more compromise on the Hill, which is set to take on a number of crucial battles in the new year, including the federal deficit and gun control, The New York Daily News writes.
President Obama had previously suggested that Congress would be more effective if more women held seats.
“Is it possible that Congress would get more done if there were more women in Congress?” he asked at a White House forum on women in the workplace. “I think it’s fair to say that is almost guaranteed.”
The Congress’s female representatives admit that even though they are looking forward to working together, they don’t agree on everything. One point of contention among the group is reproductive rights.
“I’m pro-choice,” Collins said. “But I think those issues should be settled and should not be the main focus of debate.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on the contrary, said the topics of abortion and access to birth control are far from “settled.”
“I have to say I was really shocked that those are powerful issues in 2012,” she explained.
It is that type of disagreement that the women hope they can help negotiate in the coming year.
And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand revealed that she is confident they’ll succeed. “It’s women who are going to lead the way,” she added.