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Tennessee’s 1st female senator appointed to judiciary panel

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., watches election returns in her race for the U.S. Senate with former Gov. Phil Bredesen Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s newly elected U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn will be one of the first two Republican women to ever serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Blackburn tweeted Wednesday that she was “honored to have the opportunity to blaze a trail for women in leadership roles” alongside Sen. Jonie Ernst from Iowa.

The appointments, which were first reported by Politico, mark the first time Republican women have been asked to serve on the high-profile panel that oversees vetting Supreme Court nominees and federal judges, criminal justice reform and other top national issues.

The panel also presides over certain women’s issues, such as the Violence Against Women Act, which Blackburn has opposed in the past.

Currently, just four Democratic female senators serve on the judiciary panel. This has long sparked criticism against the GOP for only having all-male Republican members even as their political party has increased control over the years.

Scrutiny particularly arose when the Judiciary Committee investigated charges of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Republicans hired a female attorney to question Kavanaugh during that hearing.

After Kavanaugh was confirmed, Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who chairs the panel, told reporters one possible reason why Republican women haven’t flocked to the committee was because of the heavy workload. He later clarified that the post is a tough job for any senator, and said Senate leadership has had trouble attracting candidates to fill up the seats.

Blackburn made history in November when she was elected as Tennessee’s first female U.S. senator after previously serving eight terms in the House.

She was officially sworn in to the office on Thursday, where she was flanked by outgoing Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, whom she replaced, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is retiring in 2020.

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