The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Let’s hear it for moderate Republican women

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) heads to the Senate floor at the Capitol on Aug. 5. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Sarah Chamberlain is president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Over the past few years, many Republican strategists, including myself, have recruited amazing moderate Republican women (and men) to serve in Congress and in state and local government. For those of us focused on finding fresh new voices willing to serve and to add the perspective of Main Street women to the debate, it is particularly distressing to see that most of the attention is on the ugly messages from a few representatives who attack members of their own party and those across the aisle.

I wish we were hearing more about the Republican women who are trying to pass common-sense legislation and work in a bipartisan manner on those bills when the result would not violate long-held Republican values.

There are 143 women serving in the 117th Congress, up from a then-record 127 serving on Election Day 2020. The entire net gain came from Republican women, who now have 38 in Congress, compared with 22 on Election Day 2020. A record 19 non-incumbent Republican women won House seats in 2020, compared with only one in 2018, giving the party 30 Republican women in the House, compared with 13 two years ago. In addition, 11 GOP women flipped Democratic-held seats in eight states.

Of those 38 Republican women, 16 (including eight freshmen) are capable of appealing to moderates: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins and Joni Ernst, and Reps. Stephanie I. Bice, Jenniffer González-Colón, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Ashley Hinson, Young Kim, Nancy Mace, Nicole Malliotakis, Lisa C. McClain, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Carol Miller, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Maria Elvira Salazar and Elise Stefanik.

Their voices are being drowned out by the self-serving rantings of legislators who are in love with their own press clippings and lack a filter, making all of us wonder whether we’re watching the Death of Decorum and Respect in Congress.

I wish we were hearing more about the terrific freshman class of women such as Rep. Kim (R-Calif.), who has ushered 10 bills through the House over the past 10 months, beginning in March with bipartisan legislation extending loan application deadlines for the government’s Paycheck Protection Program by two months. I wish we were hearing more about Rep. McClain (R-Mich.), who stepped up to lead passage of a bill to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 13 U.S. military service members who were killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 26.

I wish we were hearing more about our more tenured Republican women such as Sen. Capito (R-W.Va.), an early leader in the development of the bipartisan infrastructure bill; about Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who is highlighting the disgraceful state of maternal health care in this country; and about Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who would most likely assume the chairperson role on that key committee if Republicans take back the House in 2022.

This is not a problem limited to the Republican Party. The Democrats have their own problems with infighting, head-scratching policies and a seeming inability to realize that their hold on Congress will almost certainly end in 13 months as their party pushes further down the path of Big Government while sticking our children and grandchildren with the bill.

But just because the other party has its issues doesn’t mean we Republicans can ignore ours. We need to get our House in order and not protect those irresponsible members who feel untouchable. We need to stop Main Street America from questioning the credibility of the entire Congress at a time when there’s already too much partisanship being inserted into policy debates. And we need to start spotlighting those lawmakers who have steered clear of personal attacks in favor of getting things done.