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Women poised to take charge in Dem majority

If Democrats win the House in November, 35 women are poised to lead committees and subcommittees in the next Congress — an historically high figure that would put female lawmakers in the driver's seat for some of the most pressing issues facing Congress and the country.

That number would almost triple the amount of GOP women currently holding similar positions, and it would mark a measurable achievement for Democratic lawmakers looking to take the “Year of the Woman” to new heights of power.

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The shift also would come at the outset of a crucial 2020 presidential cycle, when Democrats want to topple President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE — a radioactive figure in the eyes of many women’s groups — and use a long-elusive House majority to battle against the administration on issues as diverse as abortion rights, family separations at the U.S. border and the ongoing probe into Russia's election meddling.

Trump's unexpected victory in 2016 sparked a wave of interest from female candidates, who have jumped into races around the country, increasing the odds of a record number of women occupying congressional seats next year. And while much of the election-year discussion has been focused on those potential newcomers, a shift in legislative power to veteran lawmakers would likely prove even more significant.

“The critical issue is the agenda changing,” Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroPro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Key Democrat unveils plan to restore limited earmarks Acting chief acknowledges police were unprepared for mob MORE (Conn.), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee’s health and labor panel, said Friday by phone.

The 14-term lawmaker rattled off a list of gender-based issues Democrats are vowing to tackle if they take control of the House, including women’s health care, domestic violence, equal pay and family leave. DeLauro said those were once considered “fringe issues” that went too long ignored or underfunded by Republicans who have controlled the chamber since 2011. She’s been passing out a pamphlet to fellow Democrats arguing that women are uniquely positioned to turn the ship around.

“When women take the gavel, Congress responds to the major issues facing working families today,” it reads.

Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGettePro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble House Democrats press Facebook on role as a 'breeding ground for polarization' MORE (D-Colo.) argued another benefit of having women in charge: They are simply more open to compromise, a breath of fresh air in a Congress practically defined by partisan conflict.

“I believe women tend to find common ground, work together and accomplish big tasks,” said DeGette, who’s in line to lead the oversight subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“As more of us get elected to Congress and fill these critical leadership roles, chances are good that we will see less gridlock and more cooperation.”

They may have a chance to prove that theory next year.

Democratic women are set to take control of six full House committees if the lower chamber flips in November. They include Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersLawmakers, Martin Luther King III discuss federal responses to systematic racism The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds MORE (N.Y.), of Financial Services; Nydia VelazquezNydia Margarita VelasquezPelosi: Sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo 'credible' Puerto Rico officials hopeful of progress on statehood The Hill Interview: House Small Business Committee chair and ranking member MORE (N.Y.), of Small Business; Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonHouse panels underscore vaccine obstacles for minority groups House Democrat says the COVID-19 vaccination distribution is 'not an issue that should be tainted with politics' The Hill's Morning Report - Biden seeks vaccine for all by summer; Trump censure? MORE (Texas), of Science, Space and Technology; Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCurator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Architect of the Capitol considering display on Jan. 6 riot Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security MORE (Calif.), of House Administration; and Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyGovernment watchdog finds federal cybersecurity has 'regressed' in recent years Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes MORE (N.Y.), of the Joint Economic Committee.

Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (N.Y.) would become the first woman in history to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee.

In addition, 34 subcommittee gavels appear poised to go to Democratic women if the party takes the House. Those include spots atop five Appropriations panels, as well as influence over other major issues: digital commerce (Illinois Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHouse Democrats press Facebook on role as a 'breeding ground for polarization' Facebook, Google, Twitter CEOs to testify at House hearing on misinformation Democrats introduce measure to boost privacy, security of health data during pandemic MORE); counterterrorism (New York Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceNY lawmakers agree to strip Cuomo of pandemic-related emergency powers Calls mount for Cuomo to resign The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J vax rollout today; third woman accuses Cuomo MORE); higher education (California Rep. Susan DavisSusan Carol DavisOvernight Defense: Congress recommends nuclear arms treaty be extended | Dems warn Turkey | Military's eighth COVID death identified Bipartisan congressional task force recommends extending nuclear treaty with Russia The Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation MORE); and immigration (Lofgren).

The numbers could fluctuate, but Democrats tend to defer to seniority when it comes to naming committee heads — a system Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (Calif.) has largely honored — and challenges are rare.

Party leaders are practically giddy at the thought of positioning more women in power, and they’re taking a page from the late Ann Richards, a former Democratic governor of Texas: "If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re likely on the menu."

Pelosi on Friday went a step further.

"It is absolutely vital that women leaders take their rightful seat at the table: at the head of the table,” she told The Hill in an email.

The potential for 40 women in high posts contrasts starkly with the Republican-led Congress, where leaders have long been accused of empowering men at the expense of female voices. Former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Cruz hits back at Boehner for telling him to 'go f--- yourself' John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report MORE (R-Ohio) came under fire in 2012 when Republicans seated an all-male slate of committee heads for the following Congress. Under pressure, he later appointed then-Rep. Candice MillerCandice Sue MillerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks GOP struggles with retirement wave Women poised to take charge in Dem majority MORE (R-Mich.) to lead the Administration Committee.

Since then, Republican women have fared better. In the current Congress, three full committees are headed by women — Reps. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (Tenn.) on Budget, Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxChamber of Commerce labels Biden removal of NLRB general counsel 'extreme' GOP scrutiny intensifies on firing of NLRB top attorney Biden fires Trump-era NLRB counsel MORE (N.C.) on Education and the Workforce, and Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksHere are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Bottom line House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (Ind.) on Ethics — and nine others hold the gavel of subcommittees. Four of the 12 are retiring or seeking higher office after this Congress.

GOP leaders are quick to reject the notion that they’re out of touch with women’s issues. Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHouse Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds Democrats' letter targeting Fox, Newsmax for misinformation sparks clash during hearing MORE (Wash.), the fourth-ranking House Republican, has long argued that GOP policies like ObamaCare repeal and tax cuts will do more to benefit women than the Democrats’ favored prescriptions. Her office declined to comment for this story, but in May she trumpeted the advantages of having more female representation on Capitol Hill.

“Being a mom makes politics real,” she told Fox News. “That’s why it’s so critical that more women and moms are elected to Congress."

The Republicans’ campaign arm also features several women in its leadership ranks. Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikCuomo asks New York AG to appoint independent attorney to investigate sexual harassment claims Psaki: Cuomo should face 'independent review' over sexual harassment allegations NY billboard calls for Cuomo's impeachment amid controversies MORE (N.Y.) is heading recruitment efforts for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), while Rep. Mimi Walters (Calif.) is the group’s vice chairperson.

NRCC spokesman Jesse Hunt pushed back on the notion that Democrats somehow have a lock on women’s interests.

“Some of the best Republican candidates this cycle are women and we’re confident we’ll see them representing their districts for years to come,” Hunt said in an email.

Democrats have long touted the gender diversity of their caucus as evidence that they're the more inclusive party, one that better represents the different interests of the country at large. And they’re no strangers to propelling women to power.

Pelosi has led the party since 2003, rising in 2007 to become the first female Speaker in the nation’s history. And with several women already announcing bids for leadership positions next year, the number of women at the highest ranks of the party appears ripe to grow.

The 2018 cycle is the first since the anti-harassment "Me Too" movement swept the country, toppling titans of business, Hollywood, the media and a handful of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including the Democrats’ own veteran Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersObama says reparations 'justified' House subcommittee debates reparations bill for Black Americans House subpanel to hold hearing on reparations for Black Americans MORE (Mich.), who was forced out last year.

With Trump dogged by scandals that include allegations of sexual assault and paying hush money to a porn star, the would-be Democratic gavel holders see an opening on the campaign trail, vowing the tough oversight they say has been neglected under Republican rule.

“You can bet the President and his allies within the administration will not be getting a free pass,” DeGette said. “I’ll work to make these inquiries bipartisan when possible, but the priority has to be getting the answers our constituents want and deserve.”

DeLauro, citing gains the Democrats have made fighting child separations at the border, summarized the Democrats’ hopeful sentiments in one sentence: “Imagine what we could do if we were in the majority.”