So far, ‘Mama Grizzlies’ lack roar

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

In the last year or so, we’ve heard a lot of talk about the importance of electing “Mama Grizzlies” who would come to Washington and “fight like a girl.” But so far, freshmen Republican women elected to Congress in 2010 have had a mixed record when it comes to voting on key fiscally-conservative bills.

Take, for example, the budget compromise recently worked out by President Obama and Speaker John Boehner. As you might recall, it was ultimately opposed by National Review, Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Marco Rubio, and RedState’s Erick Erickson.  Overall, about a third of GOP freshmen (27 of 87) voted against it.

But the list of Republicans willing to buck party leadership by voting “no” on the budget included just one of nine female freshmen (Florida Rep. Sandra Adams).

The Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) budget provided another example.  Year in and year out, this is considered the gold standard — the vote that really separates the rock stars from the RINO’s (Republicans in name only).  But while about 40 percent of GOP freshmen (overall) voted for the RSC budget, just two female GOP freshmen — Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle and Vicky Hartzler — supported it.  (It should be noted that Democrats pulled a maneuver on this bill, voting “present,” causing some Republicans to switch their votes to “no.”)

Of course, the first real test GOP freshmen faced this year was H.R. 1, the 2011 appropriations bill.  There were hundreds of amendments offered to that bill, but a couple dozen that fiscal conservatives really cared about.  Here again, newly-elected GOP females had a mixed record.

A classic example was House Vote 58, Ohio Rep. Bob Latta’s amendment to decrease by $70 million funding for energy efficiency and renewable-energy programs at the Energy Department.  In this instance, just Reps. Renee Elmers and Buerkle voted for the amendment.

(Note: It’s fair to point out that several GOP men also voted against this amendment, but it’s also fair to note that there were 18 male GOP freshmen who voted for all 20 — or so — amendments considered to be key to fiscal conservatives.)

So what does this all mean?

Nine (the number of GOP freshmen women) is certainly not a large enough sample to warrant drawing any major conclusions, but the “girl power” rhetoric espoused during the 2010 elections does raise questions about whether or not the 2010 rhetoric matches the 2011 reality.

Tabitha Hale, new media director for FreedomWorks, believes that when it comes to Mama Grizzlies, “the people that was being said about [like senate candidates Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle] didn’t win.”  Hale also reminded me of the conservative women elected as governors in 2010, saying, “[South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley] did come out swinging.”

But at least one Republican I spoke to seemed to believe the discrepancy between how female GOP freshman voted versus their male counterparts wasn’t merely an anomaly.

“I don’t think it’s accurate to portray women as inherently spendthrifts, said Republican strategist and writer Elizabeth Blackney, “but I think that our priorities are going to be viewed through the lens of motherhood … I think the instinct for many women — if you look at say Susan Collins or Patty Murray or other women, is that they tend to be very liberal on spending.”

With regard to the GOP freshmen, she added, “I think these women start their political conversation far to the right of where they really are — and I think it’s intellectually dishonest.”

Conservative blogger Melissa Clouthier argued that these GOP women were typically more conservative than their opponents, but she also added: “Just because you have a uterus, does not make you an inherently better legislator.”

Matt K. Lewis