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Republicans Again Short on Women in Top Committee Spots

For at least the third Congress in a row, only one woman will sit at the helm of a committee in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Michigan, will once again chair the House Administration Committee, which is responsible for House operations. She is the only chairwoman in the current Congress.

In the 112th Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee but was forced to give up the gavel at the end of 2012 because of a Republican-caucus imposed term limit on leading a committee.

As for the other 20 committees, white men will once again have critical input in the legislative process by running the committees that oversee taxes, energy, intelligence, government oversight, transportation and defense.

In their House leadership ranks however, three women fill eight spots.

On the Senate side, the incoming Republican majority has not yet picked their committee leaders, but its leadership team of five consists also of only white men.

In the current Senate, where Democrats hold the majority and thus the committee chairs, for a few more weeks, six of the 16 committees are held by women.

Republicans have been battling a perception problem as the party is associated as the party of white men. The Republican National Committee began extensive outreach after the party lost women and minorities by a significant margin in the 2012 election.

They have made some progress by electing women into their ranks. In the current House of Representatives, 19 – about 8 percent - of the 234 Republicans are women, and three of the 45 Republican Senators are women. In the new House that convenes in January, that number of Republican women will increase slightly to 21- and possibly 22 depending on a close outcome – of 244 Republicans. And in the Senate Joni Ernst will be the fourth Republican out of at least 53 Republicans.

While female Democratic representation is better, it is still not on par with the percentage of women in the general population. Women make up 30 percent of the Democrats in both the House and the Senate.

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- Leigh Ann Caldwell