At the start of the year, the 116th Congress was sworn into office, immediately becoming the most diverse Congress in history—all in the midst of a record-long government shutdown. Now, just days after the government has reopened, these members are ready to get to work on the issues that brought them to D.C. in the first place. On Tuesday night, during Rep. Maxine Waters' second Millennial Media Row event, got the chance to talk to a number of Congresswomen about those very priorities, that very shutdown, and what they'd say to young women discouraged by what they see in politics.

On priorities in the 116th Congress

“How many images have we seen of these gross old men making value judgements and moral statements about our healthcare? I’m so sick and tired of this. So we are here. The ladies are here in the House, and we are focused on protecting our reproductive rights, on making healthcare more accessible and high quality and cheaper so we can live our best lives.” —Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14)

“Coming into the 116th Congress, I was chairperson of the Red to Blue program, so to see these candidates that I worked with from across the country for the last two years be sworn in in January was one of the most exciting days. We have an incredibly diverse caucus, and that’s going to be our strength. In my new role as the vice chair of the [House Democratic]Caucus, I want to pull out the expertise and the perspectives of these new members and make them part of setting a bold agenda.” —Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5)

“This is the first time in my time here in Congress where we have a solid pro-choice majority House of Representatives. In other words, we’re not going to have to fight over abortion rights because we have the votes, although we still have to continue to fight the administration, which is continuing to do executive orders, going to court... the battle is definitely still ongoing, even on contraceptionWho can believe it? That in the year 2019, we’re still fighting over birth control, but here we are… I feel so optimistic with the infusion of the new energy, the sense of urgency of these young new members.” —Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)

On recovering from the shutdown

“The shutdown was devastating for the 800,000 hostages that were being held. I refer to them as hostages because there was no reason for President Trump to utilize our federal workers, our public servants, to negotiate for a border wall… I know that we’re going to see a number of our federal workers leave, the talent that they have, the historical knowledge they have about their jobs, is going to be something the federal government will have to live with for a number of years to come.” —Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35)

I heard from constituents who weren’t going to be able to pay their mortgages, who had to take their kids out of daycare, and it’s horrible. It’s unnecessary. It’s mean-spirited, and it’s bad for our country. If you believe that people in the federal government deserve to be supported and not attacked, and that we should never shut down the government because of a policy disagreement, instead we should debate like adults, please let your representatives know that you would support legislation that would end shutdowns.” —Rep. Jennifer Wexton (VA-10)

On bipartisanship

“Bipartisanship is not a bad word. It’s actually a really good word, and it doesn’t happen enough here. There are so many things that are purely non-partisan issues. Paid family leave? Non-partisan. Equal pay? Non-partisan. Affordable childcare? Non-partisan. You know the reason those things haven’t happened? Because we haven’t had enough women in the Congress to make it a priority. These guys never had to worry about, so they weren’t pressed to put it on the agenda. I think we can get all three done in the next two years with bipartisan bills because we are going to work and hustle to do it.” —Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14)

“I think one thing right now the country wants to see is Democrats and Republicans working together again. This notion of us digging in and accepting gridlock and dysfunction as a result is something I think the entire country is tired of. Frankly, when you do have an infusion of new people coming to Washington at the same time, you have an opportunity to break some of that business as usual.” —Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-3)

On what they'd tell the freshman Congresswomen

“Really excited about the new class because I think it is a unique class. It was born out of activism, so they come here really grounded in the problems and things they’d like to address. I think my words of wisdom are that there are still processes, it’s still an institution, things don’t move as quickly as we like, we don’t get exactly what we want. We try to move the needle, and it's important to recognize when you do have those successes in moving the needle forward to the ultimate goal. Have some patience. Speak up. Ask questions. Learn. Let us know you.” —Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)

On who they look up to in politics

“There are a lot of women who came before me in politics, and one of my heroes is Governor Barbara Roberts. She was the first woman governor in Oregon, and I hold her in very high esteem because she was one of those trailblazers… I have to say that I’m a huge fan of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her legacy, her work that she did on equal rights, I think everyone in this country should respect what she has done for women’s equality and will continue to do as a Supreme Court Justice.” —Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1)

“My inspiration in politics is the queen, Shirley Chisholm. She declared before it was cool, before people were really welcoming her in, that she was going to be unbought and unbossed. And what that means to me is that you cannot be afraid, and you cannot be afraid to say no. I’m here to represent the people of the Illinois-14, and sometimes folks have other agendas, and so if I’m going to be successful, I can’t be beholden to interests or industries or these nefarious groups. I’m here to serve the people, and she really embodies that in my opinion.” —Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14)

My personal inspiration in politics has been, for a long time, our leader Speaker Pelosi and now, come on, she’s the most kickass person in Congress. She took on the President of the United States, and if you ask her why, this is not about a power play, this is because she believes that for the American people, we need to make sure we don’t shut down the government, that we have good jobs, that people have the healthcare that they need, and that’s why she was willing and has been willing, maybe the only person in his life, [to say] no to the President of the United States.” —Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)

On encouraging other women to run

“When I think about encouraging other women to run, I think of my granddaughter. My granddaughter was on the floor of the House with me at swearing-in day, and to her, she thought it was absolutely perfectly normal that ‘girls can lead,’ as she said. After all, Mrs. Pelosi was up there with the gavel and all the children gathered around. So for you girls out there, and by that I mean, girls, young women, middle-aged women, whatever your age, whatever your interest, there’s room for you, and in fact you’re absolutely desperately needed. We need your voice.” —Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-4)

“I was a first time candidate, this is my first office I am holding, and it was because I felt like my voice wasn’t being heard. What I learned is that you can really do anything that you put your mind to. It takes a lot of help. It takes a lot of friends. It really takes a community and an incredible coalition of people, but you can do it and you need to do it. We need to hear your voices.” —Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7)


Original story here.

“Now is a time for us to dig in and take all of that karma and all of that energy that was given to us by our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers, all of those strong women in our past who came together and fought to make sure that we had a future. Now is the time for us to channel all of that, fight hard, and make sure we are staying true to what we said we were going to do in Congress. But also, out there, stay true to who you are, and don’t compromise.” —Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-1)

Maxine Waters On The Women Who Inspire Her
by Elle TW