Freshman Rep. Diane Black (right) speaks with Maj. Gen. Patricia Horoho about her familys military roots and the medical field. The Tennessee Republican is a former nurse and now sits on the Ways and Means Committee.
Majority Makers is an occasional feature profiling Republican freshmen who helped the party win back the House majority in 2010.
Rep. Diane Black buys her shoes at Dillards and chats up constituents at the local grocery store in her middle Tennessee district.
The 60-year-old Republican frequently talks about her grandchildren, her time as a nurse and the conservative values she has carried in her public life. But Black is worth $29 million and ranks among the wealthiest freshmen.
In a freshman class composed of political novices and small-business owners, Black is the polished veteran who has perhaps the brightest future ahead of her.
“I’m just a passionate person, and really, to be honest with you when folks say, ‘Oh, you’re looking to be up here,’ I say, ‘No I’m looking to be where I am today and where can I make the biggest difference in what I believe in today,’” Black told Roll Call in a recent interview. “And if that leads me this way or that way, when the time is right, the time will be right for me.”
She came to Congress with 12 years of experience in the Tennessee Legislature. Republicans chose her for a leadership post at the National Republican Congressional Committee and to be the freshman representative on the Republican Policy Committee. She’s one of just two first-term Members on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
On a recent Thursday, Black’s focus was a Ways and Means hearing on tax reform. Though she was awarded the plum spot after being elected last year, Black ranks dead last among the GOP panel members and sat through three hours of testimony before she could ask her questions.
“I’m the last on the totem pole,” she said with a shrug.
But Black didn’t seem to mind.
“One time I said something to Chairman [Dave] Camp [R-Mich.] about being the last one to ask questions, and he reminded me that he was on the committee four years before he got to ask one question,” Black said, laughing. “So I don’t complain.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.