NJ.com: N.J.'s Mikie Sherrill and other female veterans in Congress band together to help women in the military
By Jonathan D. Salant
In the military, former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill recalled, she learned the importance of working together. In Congress, she’s teaming up with her fellow female veterans.
New Jersey’s Sherrill, D-11th Dist., has formed a Band of Sisters with the other three female military veterans elected to the House last November. All but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, are in their first terms.
They’ve set up a committee to raise money for all their re-election campaigns and formed the new Congressional Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus to call attention to the problems particular to women serving in the military.
“We’re strongest when we work together on issues because we’re a much bigger force,” said the caucus chair, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., an Air Force veteran who like Sherrill won a Republican-held district last fall. “If you can coalesce, if you can find common ground, then you are most likely to get something done.”
Sherrill, Houlahan and Rep. Elaine Luria D-Va., have each others’ backs as they prepare for their first re-election campaigns, and as they try to use their new-found power in Congress to advocate on behalf of other women veterans and those currently on active duty.
They first got to know each other on the campaign trail as neophytes running uphill in their first tries for elective office. Once in Washington, they sought to get offices near each other and have a joint text messaging thread.
“Like a lot of people who get together, it’s shared experiences, a shared sense of mission, a shared sense of purpose," Sherrill said. “We ran in similar districts and I think we also ran for similar reasons.”
The vice chairs of the new caucus are Sherrill as well as fellow Navy veteran Luria, who also won a GOP-held seat last November, and Gabbard, who served in Iraq as a member of the Hawaii National Guard.
“American women get things done, whether on the battlefield, at sea, in the intelligence agencies, or at the U.S. Capitol,” Luria said. “Washington is a better place when we elect strong women with a history of serving our nation, and I’m thrilled to work to bring even more to Congress.”
Their issues include finding child care for female veterans on active duty, making sure Veterans Affairs facilities focus on the needs of women after spending decades primarily treating men, and looking the higher rates of suicide among female veterans.
“It was clear during my service, and now in conversations with female veterans in my community, that the challenges faced by servicewomen are often left unmet,” Sherrill said. "We are forming this caucus to bring our perspective as female veterans to our colleagues, and to work to ensure Congress does more to support both women currently serving and women veterans.”
They’ve also brought in male lawmakers of both parties who served in the military.
Likewise, their new Service First Women’s Victory Fund also reached beyond their common core and enlisted Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., two former Central Intelligence Agency officials. Both women also captured Republican-held House districts last November.
The new fund will be able to solicit larger checks from individuals and then parcel out the money to the five individual candidates. All but Houlahan are on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s initial 2020 target list.