Women of Congress to Take on America’s Many Challenges

What are female Senators and Representatives hoping to accomplish as their terms get underway? We took a look, and found an energized, focused group with a wide range of priorities.

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump hit the ground running, starting his term by signing presidential memorandums that called for American withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a hiring freeze on federal workers, and an end to federal funding for international organizations that provide abortions or information about them.

But what about the women of ? What are their hopes and goals for national policy as they embark upon their new terms? We put together this look at the major priorities of women in the Senate and the House, from both sides of the aisle, based on recent public statements. Healthcare, economic growth and tax and immigration reform were prevalent issues for Congressional women, even if they differed in policy prescriptions based on familiar party lines. And the range of issues cited by female elected officials suggests a wide breadth of problems currently plaguing the nation.

Find out what’s at the top of their respective to-do lists as they get to work in 2017.


A SAMPLING FROM THE SENATE

Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): Protecting Immigrants
Environmental protection and the fight against mass deportation of illegal immigrants are top priorities for Sen. Harris. “This issue of how we are treating our immigrants and, in particular, our undocumented immigrants, is one of the most critical issues facing our country,” she said during a press conference at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “It is incumbent on all of us, as patriotic Americans, to do the work of passing comprehensive immigration reform and to do the work of recognizing the American Dream that has been achieved and will be achieved when we do all that is necessary to give the children who were designed by DACA [Deferred Action for Child Arrivals] to have protection, and continue to give them protection.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): Improving the Nation’s Infrastructure
Sen. Duckworth is focused on the work ahead in two key committees on which she will serve: the Environment and Public Works and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees. In a video to constituents posted by the State Journal-Register, she said that transportation, in particular, will be “incredibly important to Illinois when we talk about fixing our roads and rails and airports, as well as supporting Illinois businesses and manufacturers all across our great state.”

Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.): Helping the Middle Class
Sen. Cortez-Masto told the Las Vegas Sun that she “remains committed to the same issues I campaigned on: raising the minimum wage, passing middle class tax cuts, rebuilding our infrastructure and expanding clean energy, investing in the VA system, protecting Planned Parenthood funding, fighting for comprehensive immigration reform and keeping families together.” Caring for veterans and combating human trafficking are also among her key priorities.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.): Focusing on Energy and Native Americans
Sen. Murkowski will double down on issues vital to Alaskans through her membership in a number of powerful committees: Energy and Natural Resources; Appropriations; Indian Affairs; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “The committee assignments I retained have jurisdiction over issues significant to our state — from energy, education, and healthcare to ensuring Alaska Natives’ voices are heard,” she said in a press release. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to protect and advance Alaska’s unique interests.”


A SAMPLING FROM THE HOUSE

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.): Fighting Against Racism and Economic Inequality
“Together we will work to bring an end to systemic racism in this country and provide the solutions necessary to address economic inequality,” Rep. Lee said in a press release. “I will stand against any attempts by the powerful and privileged to hijack our democracy. Along with my progressive colleagues, I pledge to fight for an increase to the minimum wage, access to affordable housing, the protection of Social Security and Medicare and strengthened ladders of opportunity for all Americans.”

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.): Bringing Back Jobs
Rep. Tenney expressed a dedication to the business community in her district, “especially small businesses and family farms,” she told Syracuse.com. “We are truly the rust belt of New York, and Donald Trump has made a big promise that he’s going to restore jobs by renegotiating trade deals,” she continued. “We want to make sure that we bring jobs back to Central New York.” She also called for tax cuts and an eventual repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.): Taking on Tax Reform
Rep. Jenkins vowed to help bring about tax code reform in a press release issued soon after her win in November. “Building a code that advantages all Americans, not just the well connected. A code that drives investment and job creation right here in America. A code that gets America growing through good old fashioned private sector investment.”

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.): Facilitating Veterans’ Health Benefits
“Helping Arizona veterans access the benefits they’ve earned and deserve is our office’s top priority,” Sinema said in a press release about the Working to Integrate Networks Guaranteeing Member Access Now (WINGMAN) Act, which would help veterans and their families process benefits claims faster. “Our heroes put everything on the line to serve our country, and I will not rest until every veteran has the care he or she deserves.”

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.): Employment Opportunities and Taxes
Jobs have always been a primary focus of Rep. Sewell’s, according to her website. But she was also recently named to the House Committee on Ways and Means, the chief tax-writing committee. And she told the Birmingham Business Journal that she is eager to bring an alternative perspective to the committee as the second African-American woman ever to serve on it. “Given the Republican agenda in the 115th Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to privatize Medicare and to undermine Social Security, it will be imperative to have strong advocates who will fiercely protect the social safety net that provides a lifeline for so many Americans,” she said.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.): Repealing the ACA, Passing a Farm Bill
Repealing the ACA is a high priority for Rep. Noem, as is finalization of the Farm Bill, which she helped pass in 2014. In a press release, she also pointed to “comprehensive tax reform” and border security initiatives as priorities for her new term. “We will also continue our efforts to reform the Indian Health Service, expand the Black Hills National Cemetery, keep the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery open, increase support for the Lewis & Clark rural water project, maintain services at the Hot Springs VA Hospital, and ensure anti-human trafficking efforts have the support they need.”

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.): Bolstering Cybersecurity
Rep. Demings, who was recently named to the House Homeland Security Committee, says national security is — “and always should be” — the top priority of government. “We are coming off of an election where our nation’s cyber-security was threatened at the highest level. Protecting all Americans from cyber-attacks must be a priority as we move forward into the 115th Congress,” she told Sunshine State News. “As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I will work across the aisle, and put the security of our nation and our neighborhoods first.”

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.): Combating the Heroin Epidemic
In the lead-up to the election, Rep. Kuster cited the passage of Carl’s Law, which would require opioid medicines to include warnings if it could lead to addiction, as a top priority to the Associated Press. She named the bill after Carl Messinger, a New Hampshire man who died of an overdose. “His relapse and overdose could have been prevented had he only known what was in that medicine bottle, and my heart breaks for his mother and all the families across the Granite State who have dealt with similar situations,” she said in a statement.

Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam): Defending Guam’s Economy and ACA Benefits
Rep. Bordallo plans to remain focused on Guam’s economy, particularly wage increases and retirement opportunities, she said in a press release. “Republicans plan an aggressive agenda that will attempt to implement their ultra conservative agenda,” she added. “If the Republicans get serious about replacing Obamacare, we will work to ensure the territories are considered fairly and that our Medicaid funding is not arbitrarily cut.”

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.): Holding Pres. Trump Accountable
Rep. Titus named veteran care, defense of public lands and immigration reform as major focal points for her term. “I will also be vocal about holding the Trump Administration accountable,” she told the Las Vegas Sun. “The president-elect and his cabinet picks have denied climate change, stoked xenophobia, promised to strip Americans of their health care and vowed to work with the GOP-controlled Congress to slash taxes for the rich, while cutting vital programs for underserved communities. We need an approach that will be good for all Americans — not just Trump’s band of billionaires.”

Posted: January 24, 2017

Candice Helfand-RogersWomen of Congress to Take on America’s Many Challenges