Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada made history last year when she was elected the first Latina member of the U.S. Senate. She’s now working to become less of a novelty.
Cortez Masto, who previously served as Nevada state attorney general, shared in a recent Women Rule interview with POLITICO editor Carrie Budoff Brown that she’s focused on improving the diversity in the Senate.
The freshman senator said she’s particularly interested in instituting diverse hiring practices and sees potential for change at the Senate staff level.
“We should be mandating diversity in our committees, mandating diversity in our hiring practices, mandating diversity throughout the United States Senate,” she tells Women Rule.
Eventually, Cortez Masto sees that turning into more minority voices in the Democratic Party: “Those individuals can go on to run for statewide office or a federal office at some point in time.”
In the latest episode of the Women Rule podcast, POLITICO talks with the Nevada senator about her push for a more diverse legislative body, whether she could work with the Trump administration and how women bond in the Senate.
You can find highlights of the interview below:
18:58 Cortez Masto explains why her historic election night was “bittersweet.”
22:30 The first Latina senator discusses how her background has informed her role on the Senate Rules Committee.
“You just have to walk in the room and look at the senators that are there — the 100 senators, right?” she says. “You could see the lack of diversity.”
25:32 Cortez Masto shares her experiences mentoring young, minority women and ties it into a larger discussion on policy issues like immigration. She recounts the story of how one young Latina girl was concerned about the possibility of her mother getting deported.
When it comes to the response from the Homeland Security secretary on immigration issues, Cortez Masto stays away from specifics. “We are having discussions,” the senator says.
29:18 Cortez Masto narrates how she made her decision to run for Harry Reid’s U.S. Senate seat following her stint as Nevada’s attorney general.
“There is a tendency for women to over think things, right? And so we think, ‘Oh, can I really—if I decide to run for office, am I qualified? Do I have the educational experience? Do I have the background? Do I have the ability?’” Cortez Masto says. “And I will tell you, there are men who look at the same office and say, ‘Well, how much does it pay and let me jump in and see.’ I think we need to do a better job of talking with women to say, ‘No, you don’t need to do that analysis.’”
The senator also addressed the challenges of running for office, including the strain on her family time.
35:40 Cortez Masto reveals how the women of the Senate form friendships and alliances.
“It’s fascinating, the bonding,” she says. “Twenty-one women, the first thing we did, let’s go have dinner. And it wasn’t talking policy. It wasn’t talking bills. It was, “Let’s get to know one another. Let’s learn about our families. Let’s have a conversation and that was fantastic.”
38:06 Cortez Masto discusses what policy areas she could see herself working with President Trump and his administration on.
“We can invest in our infrastructure and if the administration wants to do that, we should be able to work together,” she mentions. “Doing more for our veterans. Again, an issue that is bipartisan.”
Asked whether she’s received any flak from the grassroots for her willingness to cooperate with the Trump administration on these issues, the freshman senator says “I’ve talked to people in Nevada and nobody has given me pushback.”
41:50 When questioned about what has surprised her about working in the U.S. Senate, Cortez Masto says she was taken aback by how members of both parties “just want to work together and want to get things done.”
From the outside, she notes that there’s “the perception — and rightfully so — it looks like there’s just this partisan bickering, which there is, and nobody wanting to get anything done or work together.”
44:20 After six years in the upper chamber, what does Cortez Masto hope to have accomplished?
“I want to see more diversity at all levels,” she says. “I think those are important areas for us to focus on that diversity because it’s also succession planning. Those individuals can go on to run for statewide office or a federal office at some point in time.”