Today the Senate will make history, swearing in a record-breaking 20 female senators – 4 Republicans and 16 Democrats – in office.
As the 113th Congress is sworn in today on Capitol Hill, ABC “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer has an exclusive joint interview with the historic class of female Senators.
Diane Sawyer’s complete interview will air on World News this evening.
“I can’t tell you the joy that I feel in my heart to look at these 20 gifted and talented women from two different parties, different zip codes to fill this room,” Sen. Barbara Mikulksi, D-Md., said while surrounded by the group of women senators. “In all of American history only 16 women had served. Now there are 20 of us.”
Senator-elect Deb Fischer, R-Neb., becomes today the first women to be elected as a senator in Nebraska.
“It was an historic election,” Fischer said, “But what was really fun about it were the number of mothers and fathers who brought their daughters up to me during the campaign and said, “Can we get a picture? Can we get a picture?’ Because people realize it and — things do change, things do change.”
The women senators all agree that women will be getting things done in this new Congress, a sign of optimism felt for the new Congress, after the bruising battles of the 112th Congress.
“We’re in force and we’re in leadership positions, but it’s not just the position that we hold. I can tell you this is a can-do crowd,” Mikulski said of both Democrats and Republican senators in the room. “We are today ready to be a force in American politics.”
And while the number of women in the Senate today makes historic, many of the women agreed that they want to keep fighting to boost those numbers. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said that women are still “underrepresented” in the Senate.
“I think that until we get to 50, we still have to fight because it’s still a problem,” Boxer said. “I think this class as you look around, Republicans and Democrats… I think that because of this new class and the caliber of the people coming and the quality of the people coming, I think that hopefully in my lifetime — and I really do hope and pray this is the case — we will see 50 percent. “
No Sorority Here, Even With the Will to Work Together
The cooperation does not make them a “sorority,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says. There are real differences in ideology and personality and they don’t want their gender to define them as senators.
But the women also admit that they believe having more women in the room would help in fierce negotiations, compromise, and legislating on Capitol Hill, traits they say do not come as naturally to their male colleagues in the Senate. That sentiment enjoys bipartisan support among the women of the Senate.
“What I find is with all due deference to our male colleagues, that women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said by nature women are “less confrontational.” Sen-elect Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, says that women are “problem solvers.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., says that women have a camaraderie which helps in relationships that are key to negotiations on Capitol Hill, something she says comes natural to women more than men.
“I think there’s just a lot of collaboration between the women senators and… advice and really standing up for each other that you don’t always see with the men,” she said.