When Susan Collins first arrived in the Senate in 1997, a male colleague approached her about committee assignments and assumed that the Maine Republican would want to serve on education and child care panels.
“I said, ‘Yes, those are really important,’” Collins recalled. Then she told her colleague: “And I want to be on the Armed Services Committee.”
It was seen as a bold ask at a time when there were only a handful of women serving in Congress, and they didn’t even have their own bathroom yet, let alone coveted committee seats or powerful gavels. But more than 25 years later, Collins – along with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas and Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut – will hold the top spots on the Senate and House Appropriations committees, an influential crew on Capitol Hill commonly known as the “Four Corners.”
That, combined with Shalanda Young heading up the Office of Management and Budget, means women will hold the purse strings in Washington for the first time in history. The powerful spending panels in Congress oversee an annual federal budget of roughly $1.7 trillion and are responsible for crafting policies that affect nearly every corner of American life.
“People would say, ‘We have to give you a seat at the table.’ Hell, we are the table,” said DeLauro. “It’s four of us here – five with Shalanda Young – who are controlling, really, the most powerful levers of government.”
And with deadlines to f