Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenator asks Facebook's Zuckerberg to testify at hearing on kids' safety TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat executives to testify at Senate hearing on kids' safety Buttigieg hits back after parental leave criticism: 'Really strange' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her 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 McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday. The committee assignments are expected to be approved by the full Senate next week.
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 Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California 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 KavanaughLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Why Latinos need Supreme Court reform Feehery: A Republican Congress is needed to fight left's slide to autocracy 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyAnother voice of reason retires Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 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."