Senate Women's Dinner Club Has A Few RulesS

Chris Matthews recently asked Claire McCaskill about amity among female senators: "How come that works for your side of the gender aisle and men don't seem to get along? Is it just the testosterone or what?" Maybe it's the dinner.

Politico today describes a dinner group for women across the Senate aisle, launched by Senator Barbara Mikulski. The ground rules: "No staff, no memos, no leaks, and no men."

There are seventeen women in the Senate, and only five are Republicans, many of them relative moderates — Kay Bailey Hutchison, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins — plus newcomer Kelly Ayotte, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin. They get together periodically to eat, sometimes at someone's house, and also offer new entrants like Kirsten Gillibrand advice on navigating the Senate. (Gillibrand came from her own supportive women's network in the House.)

Thankfully, no one makes a Sex And The City brunch reference. Still, Politico seems to want to go as far as saying that women just naturally are nicer and more cooperative as men — the caption to the lead photo is "For female senators, there's more to politics than scoring points," but the evidence isn't that overwhelming.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) leapt to then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln's defense during a closed-door meeting on banking regulation, warning male colleagues that ignoring the Arkansas Democrat's amendments to the Wall Street reform bill would be a big political mistake.

"It was about jurisdiction but also about gender," one observer told POLITICO.

How was it about gender? What authority does this observer have? Who knows.

Maybe these women also get along better because they have to — just like data showing that women in the House tended to be more effective both in sponsoring legislation and in bringing home the pork, they've undoubtedly had to work harder than many their peers, simply because they're underestimated. (A political insider said to me recently, "There is no female Scott Brown." Yet!)

Senate Women's Civility Pact [Politico]