Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has seen a lot in politics, and Congress has changed quite a bit over the course of her career. As our team read through Clinton's detailing of diplomatic exploits in her latest memoir, “Hard Choices,” we examined it through the lens of Congress.
As a former first lady and U.S. senator, Clinton has a breadth of experience working on Capitol Hill. Should she seek the presidency once more, that interaction will matter for her political future.
The research gurus at the CQ Members Desk crunched the numbers to showcase how Congress has changed (and stayed the same) from Clinton’s perspective.
Just 69 current members of Congress have served in the Capitol continuously since Clinton began her tenure as first lady in 1993.
That group does include some of Clinton’s closest congressional colleagues, including Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who was elected to the Senate in 1992. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton said she chose Feinstein’s house as the meeting spot for her and then-candidate Barack Obama after their bitter primary battle.
“When Barack arrived, Dianne offered us each a glass of California Chardonnay and then left us in her living room,” Clinton wrote.
Feinstein and Clinton served together in the Senate, where Clinton worked for eight years. More than 170 current members have served uninterrupted terms in Congress since Clinton was first elected to the Senate in 2000.
Clinton’s fellow freshmen in 2000 have also enjoyed their political fame. That class included ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y. When Clinton was first elected, former Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was speaker of the House. Hastert’s last name probably sounds familiar, as he is the source of the unofficial Hastert Rule that dictates a speaker should only bring a bill to a vote if it has support from a majority of the conference.
In 2009, Clinton left Capitol Hill for Foggy Bottom. During her tenure as secretary of State, Clinton testified 23 times. A total of 279 current members have served consecutively since Clinton’s final term in the Senate in the 110th Congress.
In other words, roughly half of the current members of Congress were elected after Clinton left Capitol Hill.
Although Clinton may not have served with many of the current members of Congress, she wrote that her experience in the Senate gives her a unique understanding of the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government.
While addressing the congressional hearings in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Clinton wrote, “As a former Senator I understand and have a great deal of respect for the oversight role that Congress is meant to play.”
Roll Call Senior Editor David Hawkings took a look how “Hard Choices” revealed clues about how Clinton would work with Congress if she were elected president in 2016. While Clinton has yet to announce her candidacy, her memoir, as Hawkings wrote, “is so clearly a positioning document for another presidential run.”
Jay Hunter and Michael Teitelbaum contributed to this report.