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.
Instead, she highlights articles in trade publications while she bides her time on the dais and emails with staff on her BlackBerry, simultaneously keeping an ear to the witness testimony. At the hearing, Black slipped out of the committee room a few times to chat with aides and conduct a meeting with Maj. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the U.S. Army deputy surgeon general and chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. The two nurse brethren chatted about their shared medical backgrounds and military service roots.
“I have a dad who served in the Navy during World War II, and my husband was a Marine, and my son was in the Navy during Desert Storm. We love our military,” Black told Horoho.
Congress is just the latest stop in Black’s wide-ranging professional life that also includes co-founding Aegis Sciences Corp. with her husband, David.
Black represents a district previously held by former Rep. Bart Gordon, who retired after holding the seat for Democrats for 26 years. She was the underdog in her three-way GOP primary for the seat, and after overwhelmingly winning the general, she became one of just nine Republican women in the freshman class. Black is the oldest in that group of women and didn’t enter politics until her children were grown. She said she has offered advice to her younger colleagues on how to manage work and family.
If the House is like high school, Black is the freshman who got plucked to play on the junior varsity team. Her upper-class friends include Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R) and Steve Cohen (D), whom she served with in the Tennessee Legislature.
Black held leadership roles in the state House and Senate, where she rose to become caucus chairman. In the U.S. House, Cohen said, Black is showing her knack for politics by staying out of the limelight.
“It’s tough when you’re a freshman. It takes a while before you can make your mark, but she’s not made any mistakes,” Cohen told Roll Call. “For freshmen, you can’t make any mistakes. She’s not done that.”
The Democrat added that Black is “not out there trying to run for the United States Senate or run for the president or anything like that, so she’s not going to take positions counter to what the party would want or be a lone ranger. I think she’ll be part of the team.”
So far, Black has done her part. She was an outspoken advocate for Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) sweeping budget proposal. This month she joined a host of freshmen in criticizing President Barack Obama for attacking Ryan’s plan and blasted those out “to score cheap political points,” sounding a lot like GOP leaders.
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.