Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel

Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift defends staying out of the 2016 election: 'I just knew I wasn't going to help' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Senate passes sweeping budget deal, sending it to Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstErnst town hall in Iowa gets contentious over guns Air Force probe finds no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Trump pick Gun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate MORE (R-Iowa) are set to become the first female Republican senators to serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Blackburn, who is succeeding Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.), and Ernst are being named to the high-profile panel, according to a roster released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday. The committee assignments are expected to be approved by the full Senate next week.

ADVERTISEMENT

They will be the only — and first — female senators of Republicans' 12 members to serve on the committee. Democrats have four female senators on the committee, including ranking member Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.)

Blackburn was viewed as a likely choice to join the committee. Republicans have eight female senators at the start of the 116th Congress and five indicated last year that they were not interested in joining the committee. Ernst is also joining the Senate GOP leadership team this year.

Their addition to the Senate panel comes after Republicans scrambled during the confirmation fight over Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe exhaustion of Democrats' anti-Trump delusions Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' MORE’s Supreme Court nomination late last year to avoid comparisons to the 1991 Anita Hill hearings, where an all-male committee drew sharp criticism for its questioning of Hill. The backlash from those hearings helped spark the 1992 "Year of the Woman" movement, when four women — all Democrats — were elected to the Senate in a single year.

To avoid similar dynamics, Republicans hired a female attorney to handle the questioning of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh, who was subsequently confirmed, denied the allegation.

Republicans drew more criticism when Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) came under fire for his comments about women serving on the Senate panel.

“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it,” Grassley told reporters last year. “My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we’ve tried to recruit women and we couldn’t get the job done.”

He later said that his comments were misunderstood by Democrats, telling Fox News that “I should have said [that] we even have a hard time getting men to serve on this committee.”

But GOP leadership also pledged to work to convince a female member to join the panel, noting they had been unsuccessful with similar efforts in the past.

"We've encouraged several of our women senators to go on the committee and I intended to do that again at the beginning of the next session," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters in October.

He added that "there's been no effort" to have all GOP spots on the committee be held by male senators, but said his previous encouragement for female senators to join the panel was met "obviously without success."