Girls Club? Women in the Senate on sticking together

(CBS News) The new Congress has a record number of women -- 81 in the House and 20 in the Senate -- and while their policy views vastly differ, three of those senators spoke to CBS News' Norah O'Donnell about what they called a shared commitment to bipartisanship and to change in Washington.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said that in the days after President Obama was sworn in for a second term, the focus should be on the "major challenges" ahead, namely bringing the debt down followed by immigration reform and energy policy.

She said that energy is something she, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., collectively "care very much about."

For her part, Collins added that "I think that the American people are really tired of the partisan gridlock in Washington. They want us to take a more pragmatic less ideological approach to the issues. They want us to sit down, negotiate, and actually solve problems."

Heitkamp, who is new to the Senate, said the experience of being among a historic class of female senators has been "incredible" and added that, "Women are half the population ... And we have to draw on the entire talent pool of America. And half that talent pool is women ... Until we see equal representation, I think we haven't really tapped all the -- all the human resources of America."

Collins added that it's not just that women are not getting elected at the same rate as men, but rather that women are not running.

"Women tend to think that they're not quite ready. And I always try to encourage women to take the risk, to roll the dice," Collins said.

Collins has also said publicly that "if women were in charge, we would have a budget deal by now" and told O'Donnell she stands by that comment.

"I honestly believe that if you put the 20 women into a room and locked us up and threw in provisions occasionally, that we would come out with a budget," she insisted.

Turning to policy, the three senators admit they differ greatly in certain areas, including on gun control. Sen. Heitkamp received an A-rating from the NRA and Sen. Klobuchhar received an F.

On the issue of curbing gun violence, Heitkamp said, "I think one of the areas that we can agree is to sit down and analyze what actually can work ... one one of our big pushes is going to be the mental health system and helping parents, if they have a child who's in the basement they think could do this, where do they go today? And I think that's common ground that we all share."

Klobuchar added, "Heidi was the former attorney general. I was a prosecutor for a major metropolitan area. So the issue of school safety, mental illness -- I think we can get something done on background checks ... People are expecting us to get something done here."

Collins also explained that with the issue of gun control, among many others, "it's important ... to understand that women span the ideological spectrum, just as men do. We don't all agree. But what I do think we bring to this issue and so many others is a more collaborative approach and a willingness to try to find where the common ground is."

The senators also shared details about a monthly dinner for female senators and Collins joked that she once told a male colleague the dinners were meant for "planning the coup," and said that secrecy is key.

"We never reveal what we talk about, which is one reason that these dinners have been so successful."

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