Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) downplayed the Democratic party’s representative advantage when it came to women in congressional leadership Tuesday, suggesting that more of female Democrats are career politicians.
“I think you will see more [women] in those positions at the federal level,” said Blackburn, who has served since 2003. “They have had more women who have served for greater lengths of time, and they have women that have had more of a career in the political process.”
Blackburn also sought to defend her party’s nearly all-male congressional committee chair appointments: 18 of the 19 chairs selected by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) were white men. The only woman is House Administration Committee leader Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who was picked too late for Blackburn to avoid coming off as tongue-tied in an interview with an NBC News producer last week.
“I think that it is, uh … I wish we weren’t having to address that issue,” Blackburn said at the time. “I would like to have thought that could have women chairmen, but the fact that this is kind of the way it has turned out as a vote … I think what we just have to do is just continue to highlight the well qualified women that are in our conference.”
In contrast, the House Democrats appointed five women to head committees of their own. But on Tuesday, Blackburn assured MSNBC host Chris Jansing that Republicans boast more local and state-level and grassroots, pointing to grassroots female activists in Tea Party groups and the GOP’s four women governors, one more than the Democrats have after the election of Maggie Hassan (D) in New Hampshire. Blackburn also said conservative women take a more “circuitous” route to their current positions.
“Politics is not something that is a lifelong job for us,” said Blackburn, who was a founding member of the Williamson County Young Republicans in her home state in 1977. “We have careers in the public sector. Look at the women that are in the House. We’ve been marketers and nurses and we’ve been teachers and we’re education specialists and we bring all of that expertise to bear in the public sector.”
A 2009 study (PDF) by the non-partisan Center for American Women and Politics showed that female state representatives are more likely to be divorced, separated or widowed than their male colleagues and that they are less likely to be raising young children while serving in office. The Democrats’ top House member, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), famously began her political career after raising her children.
“I was blessed to have that opportunity — to sequentially raise my family then come to Congress,” she said during an encounter with NBC correspondent Luke Russert last month. “But I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start [to accumulate] much sooner.”
Blackburn’s interview with Jansing, aired Tuesday on MSNBC, can be seen below.