Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) are set to become the first female Republican senators to serve on the Judiciary Committee.
Blackburn, who is succeeding Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Ernst are being named to the high-profile panel, according to a roster released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today.
The committee assignments are expected to be approved by the full Senate next week.
They will be the only — and first — female senators of Republicans’ 12 members to serve on the committee.
Democrats have four female senators on the committee, including ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Republicans have eight female senators at the start of the 116th Congress and five indicated last year that they were not interested in joining the committee.
Their addition to the Senate panel comes after Republicans scrambled during the confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination late last year to avoid comparisons to the 1991 Anita Hill hearings, where an all-male committee drew sharp criticism for its questioning of Hill.
The backlash from those hearings helped spark the 1992 “Year of the Woman” movement, when four women — all Democrats — were elected to the Senate in a single year.
To avoid similar dynamics, Republicans hired a female attorney to handle the questioning of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school.
Republicans drew more criticism when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) came under fire for his comments about women serving on the Senate panel.
“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it,” Grassley told reporters last year. “My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we’ve tried to recruit women and we couldn’t get the job done.”
Both Blackburn and Ernst 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.
Twitter initially blocked a Blackburn campaign ad in 2017 in which she made the false claim that she had “stopped the sale of baby body parts,” but then reversed its decision.
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.