Chuck Grassley Tries To Explain The Lack Of Republican Women On The Judiciary Committee

Open mouth, insert foot. Chuck Grassley didn't exactly help his party when he was asked to explain the lack of Republican women on the Judiciary Committee.

One of the most noticeable things during the testimony of Dr. Christine Basley Ford and Justice Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month was the fact that there are no women on the Republican side of the dais. On the Democratic side, the minority is represented by no less than four women, including Senators Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the committee’s Ranking Member and would be likely to take over as Chairperson should Democrats take control of the Senate in November. The Republican side, meanwhile, is headed by octogenarian Chuck Grassley and includes members such as Orrin Hatch, who was also on the Committee during the now infamous Anita Hill fiasco. Asked about the lack of women on the committee before Saturday’s final floor vote, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley suggested that the lack of Republican women on the committee may be due to the fact that serving on the committee is hard work:

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s inability to attract Republican women might be caused by its heavy workload, a remark the panel’s chairman tried to retract a few minutes later.

“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it,” Grassley told the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and other outlets, as he headed toward the Senate floor for a speech by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The committee, which has turned into a partisan hotbed in the past five years, has never had a Republican woman serve on it, even as the Senate’s ranks have doubled from three to six female GOP senators in recent years.

That omission drew more scrutiny during the second round of hearings for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, during which committee Republicans hired a female prosecutor from Arizona to question Christine Blasey Ford about her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago.

Four of the 10 Democrats on Judiciary are women, including two former prosecutors, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).

Reporters and several political pundits immediately jumped on these remarks when Grassley made them on Friday, especially since he seemed to be suggesting that none of the six Republican women currently serving in the Senate were up to doing the work necessary to serve on the committee. Given the circumstances of the Kavanaugh nomination, this came across as both an incredibly sexist and incredibly dumb thing to say on Grassley’s part. Even taking into account that none of the female Republican Senators have the legal background that several of the female Senators on the Democratic side of the committee do, that doesn’t see to be especially relevant to the question of why there isn’t even one female member on the Republican side of the committee.

In any case, at least one of Grassley’s aides realized just how problematic his initial comments were and pulled him off the floor on Friday so he could clear them up, sort of:

Grassley was pulled off the Senate floor by an aide so that he could expand on his remarks, at which point he explained that the committee’s intense partisanship and heavy workload have made it a less glamorous post for any senator.

“We have a hard time getting men on the committee. Do you know that we have got four people that are on the committee because the leader asked them to be there? Because they couldn’t fill the seats up,” Grassley said in that follow-up interview, suggesting Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had to practically beg several Republicans to sit on the contentious panel.

“It’s just a lot of work whether you’re a man or a woman,” Grassley added.

The 85-year-old chairman then predicted that at the start of next year, Republicans would get a woman on their side of the Judiciary Committee dais.

Asked if he was previously questioning female senators’ work commitment, Grassley said male senators actually had worse work habits. “On average, any woman in the United States Senate, whether they’re on Judiciary or any other committee, probably works harder than the average man,” he said.

On some level, I suppose this is better than his initial comment, but Grassley gives no indication that the Senate Republican Caucus has even tried to recruit one of its six women onto what is arguably one of the most important Committees in the Senate. Notwithstanding the time commitment he speaks of and the fact that serving on the Judiciary Committee is not seen by Senators as being as attractive as serving on one of the budgetary committees, one would think that any of these women would jump at the opportunity for such a position if it were offered. It’s almost as if he, and the rest of the GOP, don’t even see what’s wrong with the fact that there were no women on the committee when they were attempting to undermine the credibility of a woman who presented evidence that a nominee for the Supreme Court may have committed a serious crime in his youth.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Party overwhelmingly comprised of octogenarians who harken from a time where misogynistic attitudes towards women were commonplace finds itself having to mansplain when one of its members makes yet another misogynistic remark.

    The sooner that the US puts that generation to bed and moves on, the better off everybody will be.

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  2. Leonard says:

    There are six female Republican senators. Murkowski is the only one with a JD. I bet the leadership doesn’t trust her.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    While I don’t favor term limits, I would favor an mandatory retirement age for congress critters.

    Former senator Kelly Ayotte was NH’s AG prior to running for the Senate seat and guess what, none of her committee assignments involved the judiciary.

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  4. Having a J.D. is not a requirement for serving on the SJC.

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  5. MBunge says:

    Again, let’s be clear.

    1. There’s no evidence any female GOP Senator wanted to be on the Judiciary Committee.

    2. There’s no evidence any female GOP Senator has been prevented from being on the Judiciary Committee.

    3. But Republicans should have pressured a female Senator to serve on the Judiciary Committee JUST IN CASE a woman made completely unverifiable allegations against a judicial nominee.

    Yeah. That’s not stupid and unreasonable. Not at all.

    Mike

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  6. Kathy says:

    About 12% of GOP Senators are women, compared to about 35% on the Democratic side. Add that there is a bias against women among Republicans, and the odds don’t favor Republican women in any committee, much less one with substantial power.

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  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    There we go with that written fellatio thing again …

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  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    On the topic of absolutely messed up thought processes…

    Why not comment as well on the inflammatory comments from Trumps Nationalist rally last night: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-democrats-left-wing-mob_us_5bb9d8f8e4b028e1fe3e45e6

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  9. wr says:

    @MBunge: And more to the point, how do we know that women actually want to be paid more than 80% of what men earn for the same work? For all any of you know, they believe they deserve less and are happy to get it!

    Thanks for clarifying, Bungles. So good to find a Real Man who understands how women really think.

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  10. wr says:

    @wr: And by the way, did anyone ask those slaves if they wanted freedom before Lincoln went ahead and launched that war? Pretty arrogant to make that decision for all these people, if you ask me.

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  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The sooner that the US puts that generation to bed and moves on, the better off everybody will be.

    Yeah, there is a challenge:

    In the last midterms, in 2014, only 16 percent — 16 percent! — of citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 voted.

    (source)

    It looks like the octogenarians have done a great job convincing people that their votes do not matter. Which is another great way of limiting voter turnout.

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  12. KM says:

    @MBunge :

    There’s no evidence any female GOP Senator wanted to be on the Judiciary Committee.

    How do you know that? I mean, it might be true but there’s no evidence to prove it either way because nobody seems to have freaking asked them. You are making an assumption in lieu of facts. It’s one of the most powerful positions on can obtain as a Senator so why wouldn’t they want in on it?

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  13. An Interested Party says:

    But Republicans should have pressured a female Senator to serve on the Judiciary Committee JUST IN CASE a woman made completely unverifiable allegations against a judicial nominee.

    How about having females on the Judiciary Committee simply to have more diversity…perhaps if that had been the case, a bunch of old white men wouldn’t have had to hire a female prosecutor so that they could hide behind her skirts while she questioned Ford…a bunch of wimps they are, obviously led by a doddering old fool…

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  14. Leonard says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Most members of the Judiciary Committee (16/21) do have a law degree, though.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM: @MBunge:
    Funny how Democratic female senators don’t have a problem with the work. But as it’s true that Republicans are generally not very smart, and female Republicans must frankly be a bit sick in the head, so maybe only Democrats are capable of doing their jobs. Our senators don’t have to hide behind a ‘female prosecutor.’

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  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    It’s almost as if he, and the rest of the GOP, don’t even see what’s wrong with the fact that there were no women on the committee when they were attempting to undermine the credibility of a woman who presented evidence that a nominee for the Supreme Court may have committed a serious crime in his youth.

    Almost?

    @Leonard: Positive proof that having a law degree does not make one wiser, more insightful, (eta:) more honorable, or less likely to provide cover for a partisan hack.

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  17. dmhlt says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    Why, those wily octogenarians have even made a pretty damn good PSA trying to “convince” Millennials not to vote:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POiqY4FIfMY

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  18. t says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    that generation

    yours too my guy

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  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @t:

    Until your generation decides to do more than clutch pearls on Facebook, you’re stuck with us.

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  20. Jim Brown 32 says:

    In all truth… unless there is a SCOTUS nomination on the line..this committee is a backwater. It’s not exactly the place you’d put your 1st stringers

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