House GOP women press Boehner for committee spots

House GOP women are pressuring Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to fill two remaining committee chairman positions with female lawmakers.

The slate of committee chairmen approved Wednesday, by the full House GOP conference, consisted entirely of men.

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Shortly after the 22-person GOP Steering Committee announced its choices to fill 19 House committee chairman slots, outgoing Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told The Hill not to read too much into the lack of female picks. 

“It’s not over yet,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There’s still two committees open.”

As Speaker, Boehner is allowed to appoint the chairmen of the two committees: the Committee on House Administration and the Ethics Committee.

According to outgoing Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), female members of the GOP conference are appealing to the Speaker to fill the remaining open spots with Republican women.

Though she hasn’t “had a chance to talk with [Boehner]” about the matter yet, Myrick said that her colleagues have been “making the position known.”

On Tuesday night, House GOP women held a farewell dinner for the seven female colleagues not returning for the 113th Congress.

The lack of women atop powerful House committees was a main topic of discussion, according to participants, who told The Hill that the issue was being addressed with Boehner “behind the scenes.”

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) said that “we lost some high-ranking women ... so we had a dinner last night to say, ‘We’re sorry we’re losing you,’ and it was a topic of conversation.”

But the women had a reason to celebrate as well: The House GOP conference just elected three women to join the ranks of leadership for the next Congress — the most at any time.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) was elected to be the No. 4-ranking House Republican, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) won the position of conference vice chairwoman and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) was elected to be the conference secretary.

GOP rising star freshman Rep. Martha Roby (Ala.), who ran against Jenkins for the vice chairmanship, told The Hill that part of the problem is the lack of female GOP lawmakers.

There will be only 19 House GOP women in the 113th Congress, down from the current 24. Republican women will gain three new colleagues next year: Reps.-elect Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

But GOP women suffered some tough blows when more senior Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) lost their reelection bids this year. Myrick opted to retire from the House, following nine terms of service.

“We [women] just need to move up in seniority and we’re just not there with the females to be able to vie confidently for the chairmanships,” Ros-Lehtinen explained to The Hill.

Only one woman, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), sought a chairmanship in the next Congress. She came very close to securing the Homeland Security gavel, according to several sources in the GOP Steering Committee.

It took several votes on the three candidates who ran to head the Homeland Security panel to break various ties. Sources say that Boehner, who has five votes in the Steering Committee, did not endorse any of the candidates but supported the eventual winner, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

The third contender was Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).

Myrick said that since Miller did not get the gavel at Homeland Security, she could be ready to take on the gavel at Ethics or House Administration.

Neither committee requires an in-depth knowledge of policy or history, as do the other House committees.

Myrick said that some of the freshmen, including Roby, could transition to a chairmanship seamlessly.

“We’ve got some really dynamite freshmen; any of them would be capable of stepping up to the plate,” Myrick said.

Boehner's office declined comment for this report.

This story was posted at 5:08 p.m. and updated at 6:48 p.m.