Patty Murray Makes History as First Female Senate Pro Tem
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was elected Senate president pro tempore Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold the job since its inception and putting her third in the line of presidential succession.
Murray, who was elected to the Senate in 1992 as a self-proclaimed “mom in tennis shoes,” was selected for the role after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) declined to seek it. In recent years, the job has gone to the senior-most member of the majority party, which is the 89-year-old Feinstein. Murray, 72, is the second in line.
Murray in an interview Tuesday recalled joining the Senate when there were only two women in the chamber. “When I was elected, it was called ‘the year of the woman,’ and we were six. And I think a lot of the men, although they wouldn’t tell you this, were just sort of like, ‘Oh my God, what are those women going to do when they’re here?’” she joked. “And I think over time we have earned the respect of not only them but people around the country that we are serious about our roles.”
Murray, wearing her signature tennis shoes, was sworn in by Vice President Harris on Tuesday afternoon to the role.
The ceremonial job of presiding over the Senate and signing legislation comes with a security detail and increased funding for staff. Murray said she would also like to use it to be a “problem solver in the Senate” and help craft bipartisan solutions, including with the newly Republican House, to keep the government functioning — as she did in 2013, when she helped land a budget agreement with then-Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). Murray, who won reelection to a sixth term in November, is also set to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee this year — marking the first time the powerful committee is likely to be led by four women from the majority and minority parties in the House and Senate.
While Murray ascended to her new role, House Republicans were locked in an ugly battle on the other side of the Capitol that foreshadowed what could be a new era of gridlock and infighting after two years of unified Democratic control of Congress. “If the House chooses to be dysfunctional amongst themselves and just not want our country to work, that puts us all in peril,” Murray said. “I hope they see above that. I think our country really does not want to see chaos or any kind of dysfunction.”