Opinion: The Women in Washington Staying for the Fight

Collins, Feinstein and Pelosi want to keep fighting for their causes

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is among the women in Congress planning to stick around and keep fighting for their causes. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is among the women in Congress planning to stick around and keep fighting for their causes. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)
Posted October 17, 2017 at 5:03am

Sen. Bob Corker’s leaving the Senate, and who can blame him? At a certain point, life’s just too short to get called “Liddle Bob” on Twitter by anyone, especially by the president of the United States.

But even as Corker announced that he’d retire at the end of his term, two of the Tennessee Republican’s female colleagues decided last week they’re not going anywhere, at least not if they can help it. Both women said while they had considered leaving Washington, the job in the Capitol was too important to walk away from.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins had been considering a run for Maine governor, a job she ran for once before and one that would return her to her home state full time. 

“I looked at all that is going on in Washington today. The issues that we’re dealing with are so consequential,” Collins explained to NBC’s Kasie Hunt. “And I just felt that I couldn’t walk away even though it’s a very difficult and troubled time in Washington.”

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, on the other hand, is at the end of her fifth Senate term. Instead of retiring as many expected her to do, the 84-year-old Democrat announced last week that she’s running for a sixth term.

“I’m ready for a good fight,” Feinstein told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press Daily.” “I’ve got things to fight for. I’m in a position where I can be effective, and hopefully that means something to California.”

Unanimity on one point

It has to be said here that neither woman gets along with President Trump any better than Corker does. Collins made no secret of the fact that she did not support Trump for president and would not vote for him in 2016 because of his “unsuitability for office.”

Collins provided critical votes against the GOP’s Obamacare repeal attempt, effectively killing one of Trump’s marquis legislative efforts, and was most certainly one of the members of Congress the president was talking about on Monday when he said there are some Republicans “who should be ashamed of themselves. … You had a few people who disappointed us. They really, really disappointed us.”

Is Collins ashamed of herself? Definitely not.

Feinstein, in the meantime, has been heading up the Democrats’ Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, which the president has ripped as a witch hunt. Because the work of the committee is secret until it’s not, Feinstein can’t say much about what it’s doing. But she has vowed to force the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. to testify publicly about his role “come hell or high water.” 

Despite her leadership on that committee, Feinstein has gotten into screaming hot water with liberals in California for suggesting over the summer that Trump could become a good president “if he could change.”

The uproar over the conditional approach was so ferocious that Feinstein had to issue a clarification that she of course (obviously, hellllloooooo) doesn’t think he will change. With a primary challenge from the left already announced, it’s fair to say that opposing President Trump is going to be Dianne Feinstein’s day job from here on out.

Another woman who is sticking around to fight President Trump is House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Like Feinstein, California Democrats are not-so-privately complaining that it’s time for the new guard to get a turn at leadership.

Still in the game

But Pelosi says she’s in the fight for the long haul, too, to keep the Affordable Care Act in place, as much as possible, and to make sure there’s a woman in leadership at the table when the big decisions are getting made. At a White House dinner, Pelosi said, she had to speak over the men to finally interject a question. “Do the women get to talk around here?”

To Pelosi’s point, history holds unambiguous proof that when women are at the decision-making tables in Washington, progress is made and bipartisan deals get done.

It was Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington who struck the budget deal with Speaker Paul Ryan to pass a major budget agreement, just as a bipartisan group of women senators got together in 2013 to avoid a government shutdown. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was one-half of the deal that pushed the farm bill through that year, and even Pelosi was half of the Chuck-and-Nancy show that struck a deal with Trump to raise the debt ceiling and keep the country from jumping off a financial cliff.

There’s an irony in the fact that while so many people in Congress, and even in the administration, are at their wit’s end with a president they consider to be a misogynist, a narcissist or at the very least a “moron,” three of the most senior women in Washington are making it clear they are going to stay in Washington to join the fight for the long haul.

If there’s a deal to do with the president to advance their states’ or their country’s interests, they’ll do it. But if they see Trump or his policies as dangerous, they’ll be a problem.

Hopefully, a big one.