Gridlocked U.S. Senate thin on women lawmakers

There are only 17 women in the 100-member U.S. Senate, which is one of so many under-the-radar problems exacerbating gridlock in the dysfunctional chamber, the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reports. By comparison, 17 is the same number of women who presently sit in the 35-member Colorado senate. The upshot, according to the lawmakers Terkel talked to, is that the family, health and poverty issues at the heart of daily national life are inadequately addressed and compromise and problem-solving are reduced to four-letter words.

“I think we are, by our nature, nurturers and negotiators. We want people to get along, we want to find a solution, we want to move forward,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told Terkel. “I think sometimes there is a tendency to like the fight for the fight’s sake every once in a while with some of the guys. So I think having more women involved will help.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said that in negotiations female senators are more solutions oriented.

“When women are part of the negotiation and are part of decision-making, the outcomes are just better,” said Gillibrand. “When we have our dinners with the women in the Senate — the Democrats and Republicans — we have so much common ground. We agree on so many basic principles and values. I think if there were more women at the decision-making table, we would get more things done.”

With more women, priorities might likely shift as well, just as a demographic matter. Take the view of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, for example. Should we slash those programs?

As Terkel reports, “56 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, 57 percent of Social Security beneficiaries and 69 percent of adult Medicare recipients are women, who tend to live longer than men.”

Would the Senate be focusing more on the recovery than, say, defunding Planned Parenthood?

Since the recession began in 2007, men have regained 27 percent of jobs lost while women have regained only 9 percent, according to Terkel. The recovery is moving three times faster for men.

On the state level, Coloradans have long abandoned lopsided male-dominated representation.

As the Colorado Independent reported this year, 41 women were sworn into the state legislature in 2011, strengthening the state’s standing as the women-lawmaker capital of the nation. Colorado gained five women in the Senate and lost one in the House. In addition to the 17 women in the 35-member Senate, there are 24 women serving in the 65-member House. That’s the largest percentage of women serving at any state capitol across the country and it’s also the largest number of women ever to serve at the Colorado capitol. .

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the percentage of women serving in state legislatures in the country is down from 24.5 percent in 2010 to 23.4 percent this year. The percentage of women serving in Colorado dwarfs those figures at 41 percent.