On 26 January 2016, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) presided over a brief administrative session to postpone U.S. Senate business an additional day due to the onset of Winter Storm Jonas. While making her comments, Murkowski noted:
“As we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female. This was not orchestrated in any way, shape, or form. We came in this morning, looked around and thought ‘something is different this morning.’ Different in a good way, I might add. But something is genuinely different and I think it’s genuinely fabulous.
Perhaps it speaks to the hardiness of women who put on your boots and your hat on and slug through the mess that is out there.”
While Murkowski’s above-quoted comment is accurate, it led to two misconceptions about the Senate session on 26 January 2016:
- All male senators decided to stay home from work while all female senators decided to show up for work.
- Only females were present in the Senate chamber.
These misconceptions were illustrated in a viral Facebook video from Now This:
Only female Senators showed up to work during the giant blizzard of 2016
Posted by NowThis on Wednesday, January 27, 2016
The Washington Post reported that Senate votes scheduled for Monday were postponed until Wednesday due to the snowstorm, and while the floor was open on Tuesday for senators who wanted to speak, there were no roll call votes that day:
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday afternoon and will be open so that senators may speak if they want, but there will be no roll call votes, leadership aides said.
While Sen. Murkowski’s observations were true, it isn’t completely accurate to say that male senators didn’t show up for work, as the primary focus of Tuesday’s session was to postpone business until Wednesday.
Murkowski even noted that it was “understandable that we would allow a period of time for our colleagues to return to the Senate” due to the severe weather:
“What we have just done is move consideration for the energy bill from today to tomorrow. A little bit unusual. But given what we have seen here, not only in Washington DC but all around the East Coast. With the weather, the blizzard of 2016. It is understandable that we would allow for a period of time for our colleagues to return to the United State Senate.”
The full video of Murkowski’s comments also shows that several men were present in the chamber, although there were no male senators. While Murkowski and Collins were the only senators in the chamber, there were males present, including Senate Chaplain Rear Adm. Barry Black. Several other men can be seen in the chamber, although their names and positions are not known:
While female senators presided over a brief session on 26 January 2016 and no male senators were present for the session, there were some men present in the Senate chamber.