At a Glance
- Career History: Colorado House (1992-1996); Attorney (1982-1992)
- Birthday: July 29, 1957
- Hometown: Denver
- Alma Mater: B.A. from Colorado College (1979); J.D. from New York University School of Law (1982
- Spouse: Lino Lipinksy
- Religion: Presbyterian
- Committees: Energy and Commerce Committee ; Natural Resources Committee
- DC Office: 2335 Rayburn House office building, Washington DC 20515Phone: (202) 225-4431
- District Office: Denver, (303) 844-4988
Path to Power
A fourth-generation Coloradan, DeGette obtained a law degree from New York University in 1982. She returned to Denver to work in the public defender's office and later entered private practice, focusing on employment and civil-rights law. Elected in 1992 to the Colorado House, she soon became assistant minority leader.
In 1995, 12-term Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) announced that she wouldn't seek re-election in Colorado's 1st district, a heavily-Democratic seat that encompasses all of Denver. DeGette, then only 38, won the Democratic nomination with surprising ease against a candidate who had the support of Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. The district's partisan make-up made her the favorite in the general election. She warned against letting "a small core of extremists determine our social policy" and prevailed by 17%.
DeGette has made public health and consumer protection her legislative priorities. Best known for championing stem-cell research, the congresswoman has also focused on expanding health-insurance programs for children and advocating for abortion rights.
Since January 2009, she has sat on the Natural Resources Committee. For the past decade, she has regularly introduced legislation seeking to designate more than one million acres in Colorado as wilderness area."I cannot… let every last acre of our state be sold to the highest bidder," she argued in 2007. DeGette, who did not get Republicans to hold a hearing on the bill when they controlled the House, was hopeful she could push it further once Democrats regained a majority; yet, even the 2007 version failed to get past the subcommittee stage.
DeGette enjoys a strong working relationship with a number of senior House Democrats. In 2005, she became a close collaborator of then-House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who tapped her to be chief deputy whip; Hoyer is now the Democrats' majority leader. DeGette is also an ally of former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, who handpicked her as the vice-chairwoman of that committee. She continues in that role under new chairman Henry Waxman.
DeGette has built a network of allies on issues relating to health care and reproductive rights. To pass stem-cell legislation, she formed an efficient partnership with then-Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.). DeGette also works with Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) on reproductive health issues; the two lawmakers co-chair the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.