In the still-roiled wake of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Senate GOP leadership has added two Republican women to its Judiciary Committee, Politico reports. With four female Democratic senators already serving, the 20-member committee ratios will be 14-6 men to women, and 11-9 Republican to Democrat. The GOP retained and advanced its Senate majority in the recent midterm elections.
Politico wrote that it has seen a new roster for the committee and confirmed the change-up with a “Capitol Hill source.” The GOP will add Joni Ernst of Iowa and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Both have campaigned on and voted for policies to block the ability for women to obtain legal abortions.
Blackburn led Senate hearings into selectively edited video footage that purported to show Planned Parenthood tried to profit illegally from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood denied the accusations, and investigations in several states found no validation of the claims. The two anti-abortion activists who shot the video were indicted, however, though the charges were later dropped.
More recently, however, Blackburn dropped abortion as a campaign issue in a tight 2018 election in which a moderate former governor opposed her in Tennessee.
Ernst has remained more consistent on the issue, however, tweeting in May 2018 in support of a restrictive abortion bill signed into law in her state of Iowa: “Glad to see Iowa leading the way and standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn.” A judge halted the law from taking effect while a lawsuit against it proceeded, however.
The additions to the Judiciary Committee follow Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. During the hearings, an accusation emerged that the judge he had sexually assaulted a woman when both were teens. The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, intended her information to remain private, but serve as the potential basis of investigation, it was leaked and blew into the open prompting an abbreviated look into the allegations by the FBI and a day of testimony by Kavanaugh and Ford.
With seven men representing the GOP on the judiciary committee, it was seen as bad “optics” for them to question Ford directly. The Republican senators appointed Rachel Mitchell, a veteran Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor, to question Ford, but then spoke over Mitchell and ultimately sidelined her.