Working mothers of Congress form their own caucus
By Keya Vakil
April 18, 2019

Women couldn’t bare their shoulders in the House of Representatives Speaker’s Lobby until 2017. They didn’t have their own bathroom off the House floor until 2011 or a lactation room in the House until 2007.

These staggering facts make the 2018 election all the more historic. The 2018 midterms nearly doubled the number of working mothers in Congress and led to the formation of a “Moms in the House” caucus, a group which all 25 mothers of school-age children were invited to join.

It’s no secret that Congress has long been a boys club, and even after the wave election of 2018 that sent a record number of women to Congress, only 24% of Congress is female.

At “Moms in the House” meetings, members can talk openly about the double standards and judgment they’ve experienced in Washington D.C.

Of the 25 working mothers in the House, 21 are Democrats and only 4 are Republicans, and so far only the Democratic members have attended meetings. The group’s founder, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida) told the Washington Post that Republicans have expressed interest.

Members of the caucus are diverse and range from the first two female Muslims elected to congress in Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) to the first lesbian mother elected in Rep. Annie Craig (D-Minnesota).

The caucus also includes Democratic Virginia Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, and Jennifer Wexton.

And while most of the mothers, including Rep. Jennifer Wexton, are married and rely on the support of their spouses, Rep. Katie Porter (D-California) is a single mother. Porter said her experience could be isolating, especially since 25% of American mothers are single parents while she’s the only one in Congress.

Wasserman-Schultz wants the caucus be a forum where the mothers can not only support and comfort each other, but also build power and promote an agenda to promote family-focused issues, such as affordable child care and better parental-leave policies.

Indeed, members of the group have already made waves, with Porter confronting JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on the bank’s low wages and how they would affect a working single mother.

Members of the caucus are also aware that young girls across the nation may look up to them and that they also have the chance to establish their presence in Congress as the new normal.

For some, such as Jennifer Lawless, a political scientist at the University of Virginia and an expert on women in politics, the caucus’ existence only serves to highlight the “disproportionate share of household labor and child care that women, even in the top tier of professional accomplishment, remain responsible for.”

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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