Meet the New Class: The Senate Swears in a Historic 20 Female Senators


Feinstein said that women are more effective working in Congress because of these traits that they bring to the table.

"We're less on testosterone," Feinstein said. "We don't have that need to always be confrontational. And I think we're problem solvers, and I think that's what this country needs."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, agreed.

"Maybe it is the testosterone that you speak to, Dianne, or the ego that is attached there. But I look at what I have been asked to do by the people of Alaska, and it's pretty serious stuff. And it's not the title, but it's the responsibility that comes with the service that I think makes a difference," Murkowski said.

In the combative halls of Congress, McCaskill argued that for all these reasons women can get beyond "team mentality" of Democrats vs. Republicans and work towards a better goal.

"Having us in the room... not only do we want to work in a bipartisan way, we do it," McCaskill said. "We actually work together, Republicans and Democrats, and women- try to look at solving the problem rather than just going political points."

But the women agree that just because their natural tendencies lean toward problem solving, camaraderie and compromise it does not mean they don't fight for what they believe in, which at times can be markedly different from their female counterpart on the other side of the aisle.

"That doesn't mean that we think alike, and it doesn't mean that we don't span the ideological spectrum," Collins said. "I always push back the idea that there are women's issues. Because every issue from war to taxes to education affect women in this country. And that's why the point of having women be represented on all committees and leading many of them is so important."

Reproductive rights

One of those ideological differences that often divides the two parties, and oftentimes women as well, is the issue of reproductive rights.

Last year the issue took a center stage in the 2012 presidential campaign as well as in races across the country during the congressional elections as a highly polarized and emotionally charged topic.

The senators showed there is disagreement among them on abortion, reproductive health decisions and even disagreement as to what leadership role women and Congress should play in the debates ahead.

"I'm pro-choice," Collins said. "But I think those issues should be settled and should not be the main focus of debate. To me those issues, Roe v. Wade, is settled law and I don't know why we would want to keep bringing those issues up. I think we should be focusing like a laser on job creation, the economy, health care, education, foreign policy, national security. Those issues to me are settled."

Sen-elect Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., disagreed, saying Republicans put those issues onto the Congressional radar screen.

"I don't think they are entirely settled," Warren said, "I have to say I was really shocked that those are powerful issues in 2012. I would like to think those things are settled. But they were forced forward as issues by people who thought that women should not have that kind of access. And boy, if that's the case, then we better stand up and we better speak out."

Can Women Fix Washington's Dysfunction?

The 112th Congress may be best known for long-drawn out fights, fierce partisanship and little to show legislatively for the year.

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