NYT: McCaskill Part of Women of the Senate Pushing the Sexual Abuse Issue to Headlines
June 3, 2013

McCaskill

McCaskill

WASHINGTON — Senator Claire McCaskill wandered down the dais at the Senate Armed Services Committee’s first hearing of the year and noticed a startling tableau: women to the left, women to the right.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a veteran Republican member of one of the Senate’s most testosterone-driven panels, was now flanked by them on both sides, including by two Republican colleagues, Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

“You’re toast, Graham,” cracked Ms. McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.

Ms. McCaskill’s joke reflected the seven women now on the Armed Services Committee, a high, and the role that a record 20 female senators are playing on powerful committees. Of the four most prestigious Senate panels — Appropriations, Armed Services, Finance and Foreign Relations — women now hold 18 spots, an increase of nearly 65 percent over the last decade.

But nowhere is the presence of so many women more pronounced than on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the women on the 26-member panel have forced the long-simmering issue of sexual assault in the military to the forefront on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have tried to pursue the sexual assault problem for years, with little impact. But now a slew of attention-grabbing bills — most written by women — are intended to end what senior military officials say is a crisis and President Obama has called a disgrace.

“When I raised the issue of rape in the military seven years ago, there was dead silence,” said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and member of the committee. “Clearly they are changing things around here.”
More:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/us/women-in-the-senate-gain-strength-in-rising-numbers.html?hp