John Boehner as Majority Leader has, so far, appointed one woman to chair a House committee. All both men and women are white. The lone woman, Candice Miller, will head the Administration Committee. In contrast, Nancy Pelosi has announced that she is appointing three women to be the ranking minority member on Appropriations, Finance, and Rules.
Rep. Nita Lowey — Bronx-born, Jewish and Mount Holyoke-educated — was tapped to be the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of that once hidebound Southern male enclave that famously resisted hiring even female secretaries for decades.
The 75-year-old New Yorker will succeed retiring Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) in the new Congress just as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) will move into the ranking spot on the House Financial Services Committee, replacing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Together with Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) in the Rules Committee, they pose a remarkable trio for Democrats: women leading the opposition party in three of the House’s five most exclusive committees.
Two white women and one African American. When you have power over money and rules, you begin to have real influence.
And the vote to appoint Representative Lowey was between two women.
Among the top committee posts voted on Tuesday by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, Appropriations was the only real contest. Lowey had to first get around another woman, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who enjoys more seniority on the panel but less of a following in the party.
In a secret ballot, the New Yorker prevailed easily, 36-10, and by prior arrangement, the two lawmakers had agreed not to contest the outcome in the full caucus. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Kaptur joked beforehand of being the Toledo Mud Hens vs. the New York Yankees: “I’m just happy to be in the league,” she told reporters.
Unfortunately, there are not enough Republican women in Congress for them to compete for a position. I don’t expect the picture to change as long as the Republicans continue to hold such anti-women positions.
AP photograph of Representative Lowey.