Republicans have talked a good game about cross-Dome coordination within their party. Seven of the 13 freshman GOP Senators are former House Members, and with the party revving up an ambitious agenda, synchronizing efforts between the two chambers has taken on a new importance.
An overlooked front in that new dynamic sits behind a desk in the temporary Senate offices set up in the courtyard of the Russell Senate Office Building.
Cathy Boozman looks every inch the perfect political wife: Her cardigan-and-button-down ensemble is in patriotic shades of red, white and blue. Her hair is coifed, and her manner warm and genuine.
She’s had plenty of practice in the role. Her husband, Republican Sen. John Boozman, represented the couple’s Arkansas district in the House for about nine years.
Boozman now has a new title to go with her new status as wife of a Senator. After her husband wrested the Arkansas Senate seat from Democrat Blanche Lincoln in November, she was named the bicameral coordinator of the Republican Congressional Spouses.
The GOP spouse organization has been dominated by the spouses of House Members, and its leaders hope to get the husbands and wives of their Senate brethren into the fold.
“I’m going to be a bridge,” says Boozman, who started attending meetings soon after her husband was first elected to the House in 2001. “I’ll try to coordinate, or at least make sure the Senate spouses know what we’re doing.”
The group — which is separate from the Congressional Club, made up of spouses of both parties — meets monthly for a lunch and lecture at the Capitol Hill Club. Guests are often authors on wide-ranging topics. (“It seems like everyone around here has written a book,” Boozman marvels.)
Boozman says the members of the GOP group enjoy learning from their speakers — but mostly, they value the camaraderie of being around fellow Congressional spouses. Only they truly understand the unique demands on them, their marriages, their families. They understand that, contrary to what people outside might think, there’s little glamour in the life of a Member of Congress — and even less in the life of a Congressional spouse.
Unlike some Congressional wives who stay back in the district while their husbands commute, Boozman says she has worked hard to make the nation’s capital a home away from home for the couple. They bought a two-bedroom place in Old Town Alexandria nine years ago that’s just big enough for visits from their three adult daughters, and they have settled into a routine punctuated by frequent flights to and from the district.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.