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Women step up in House GOP leadership. Why that's just a start.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers rises to the No. 4 position in the House GOP leadership, which saw a net add of one woman to its roster. But the party lags badly in having women among its ranks in Congress.

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McMorris Rodgers isn’t a token lawmaker – she was Mitt Romney’s congressional liaison and was already in party leadership during the last Congress. Moreover, she defeated a man who has deep respect in the conference for his knowledge of policy issues, particularly on health care.

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But compared with the level to which women have come to help define the Democratic party in Congress, McMorris Rodgers and Co. have a long, long way to go.

One need only look to earlier in the day, when House minority leader Nancy Pelosi showed the potency and breadth of women’s power in her party. There was Representative Pelosi, standing shoulder to shoulder with many of the nearly 60 House Democratic women at a press conference announcing that she, the first-ever female speaker of the House, would stay on as leader of her caucus for another two years.

That’s a nearly three-to-one advantage for Democrats in terms of female representation in the House. In the Senate, where liberal heartthrobs like Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts and Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (D) of Wisconsin will join the party in 2013, Democrats will have 16 women senators to the Republicans’ four.

Overall, that’s the most women in the Senate ever – and it’s a four-to-one advantage for Democrats.

While there isn’t a one-to-one connection between lawmakers and gender support, the results of the 2012 election are unambiguous: Exit polls showed women breaking for President Obama and Democrats by double-digit margins in many states.

“I come here with my sisters,” said Pelosi, noting that when she came to Congress a quarter of a century earlier there were only 23 total women in the House, split relatively evenly between right and left.

“Today, we have over 60 House Democratic women,” she said as her members applauded. “Very good. Not enough. We want more.”

In the Republican event unveiling the party’s new leadership, women – even with three of them on stage – went with nary a mention.

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