Patty Murray makes history as the first acting woman in the Senate

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Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was elected acting president of the Senate on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold the position since its inception and placing her third in the order of presidential succession.

Murray, who was elected to the Senate in 1992 as a self-proclaimed “mother in tennis shoes,” was selected for the role after Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) declined to apply. In recent years, the post has gone to the longest-serving member of the majority party, 89-year-old Feinstein. Murray, 72, is second in line.

Murray recalled in an interview Tuesday that he joined the Senate when there were only two women in the room. “When I was elected, it was called ‘the year of the woman’ and there were six of us. And I think a lot of men, even if they wouldn’t tell you, thought, ‘Oh my God, what are these women going to do when they get here?’” she said. joked. “And I think over time we’ve earned respect not only from them, but from people across the country, that we take our role seriously.”

Murray, donning her signature tennis shoes, was sworn into the role Tuesday afternoon by Vice President Harris.

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The ceremonial task of presiding over the Senate and signing legislation into law comes with a security detail and more funding for the staff. Murray said she would also like to use her to be a “Senate problem solver” and help come up with bipartisan solutions, including with the new Republican House, to keep the government functioning — as she has. in 2013, when she helped prepare a budget. agreement with then-Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). Murray, who was re-elected to a sixth term in November, is also expected to head the Senate Appropriations Committee this year — marking the first time the powerful committee is likely to be led by four women from majority and minority parties in the House and the Senate. Senate . .

As Murray rose to his new role, House Republicans were engaged in an ugly battle on the other side of the Capitol that heralded what could become a new era of stalemate and infighting after two years of unified Democratic control. of Congress. “If the House chooses to be mutually dysfunctional and just doesn’t want our country to work, it puts us all at risk,” Murray said. “Hopefully they look up there. I think our country really doesn’t want to see chaos or any kind of dysfunction. »

Murray said she brought a different perspective to Congress. When she became the first female chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, she also expanded her focus to veteran caregivers. And she has tried to include reproductive rights and child care in budget discussions. “I think we often bring a voice to the table that we would miss if it were all men,” she said. “I’m not the only woman on this committee. [now]. There are other women who share my opinion and who are respected for who they are.

When Murray won the nomination for the role at a meeting of Senate Democrats last month, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said she shared a bittersweet moment with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Min.).

“I just looked at Amy Klobuchar and just said, ‘History,'” Hirono said. “Women took so long – ‘Yikes’ is all I can say.”

Hirono recalled that Murray was elected to Congress in the 1990s on a wave of “soccer moms” and said she thinks the Senate has changed significantly since then. She said an unnamed male colleague recently told her that he relayed Hirono’s comments to the men during the Supreme Court nomination hearings to get Brett M. Kavanaugh to “shut up and come forward.” and worked to elect women of color in her state. .

“I’m going to celebrate Patty,” Hirono said.

Washington

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