By COKIE ROBERTS AND STEVEN V. ROBERTS
The headline in the Washington Post read, “Moderates flex muscle.” Below that were pictures of 12 senators, six from each party, who are helping to forge a bipartisan compromise that would reopen the government and pay its bills. But the story never mentioned a key fact: Five of the 12 are women, three Republicans and two Democrats.
That’s no accident. The 20 female members of the Senate might be the last outpost of civility and sanity left on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who organized the group, told the New York Times: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that women were so heavily involved in trying to end this stalemate. Although we span the ideological spectrum, we are used to working together in a collaborative way.”
That’s true, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, made a good point on MSNBC: “If it were up to the women, this would be over already. There’s still a lot of testosterone going around.”
Even as the current stalemate reaches a conclusion, a new round of budget talks will start immediately. And it’s critical that female legislators from both parties stay involved and dilute the male hormones Cantwell describes. As Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, noted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the women provide “a good model going forward” that restores and reinforces one of the most important words in the political lexicon: compromise.
Of course, not all women are pragmatists. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, is a hardline conservative and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, is a doctrinaire liberal. And then there’s the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska who once ran for vice president and now seems increasingly detached from reality.
But in a capital choking on toxic levels of partisan hostility, the women senators have made a deliberate and determined effort to maintain communication across party lines. They meet about every six weeks for private dinners, and last Monday, in the midst of the current kerfuffle, the two New Hampshire senators — Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte — co-hosted an emergency girls-only pizza party.