Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Senator

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Blanche Meyers Lincoln (Lambert)

Birthplace: Helena, Helena-West Helena, Phillips County, Arkansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Jordan Bennett Lambert, Jr. and Martha Lambert
Wife of Private
Sister of Mary Lambert

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Senator

Blanche Meyers Lambert Lincoln (born September 30, 1960) is a former U.S. Senator from Arkansas and a member of the Democratic Party. First elected to the Senate in 1998, she was the first woman elected to the Senate from Arkansas since Hattie Caraway in 1932 and, at age 38, was the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate. She previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Arkansas's 1st congressional district from 1993 to 1997.

Lincoln was the first woman and the first Arkansan to serve as chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. She also served as the Chair of Rural Outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus. In 2010 she ran for a third term, but lost by a 58%-37% margin to Rep. John Boozman, whose brother, Fay Boozman, she defeated in Arkansas's 1998 Senate election.

Early life, education and career

A seventh-generation Arkansan, Blanche Lambert was born in Helena, Phillips County, to Martha (née Kelly) and Jordan Bennett Lambert. Her father was a rice and cotton farmer. Her older sister, Mary Lambert, is a film director. She received her early education at the local public schools in Helena, and was the student council president at Central High School from 1977 to 1978.

Lincoln attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where she was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. She graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1982, earning a Bachelor's degree in biology. She originally sought to go into nursing.

After graduating from college, Lincoln served as a staff assistant for U.S. Representative Bill Alexander, a Democrat from Arkansas's 1st congressional district. She remained in Alexander's office until 1984.

U.S. House of Representatives career

In 1992, Lincoln defeated Alexander (who had become a major figure in the House banking scandal) in the Democratic primary, by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. She subsequently won the general election, beating Republican Terry Hayes with 70% of the vote. Her election to the House coincided with the election of fellow Arkansan, Bill Clinton, as President of the United States.

She calls herself a centrist Democrat and was among the minority of Democrats to support CAFTA. While in the House, she was one of only 17 Democrats to vote for the Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act of 1995 which sought to change federal employment laws. The law was vetoed by President Bill Clinton. She has voted in favor restricting class action lawsuits and tightening rules on personal bankruptcy. Lincoln was also one of the few Democrats in Congress to vote in favor of Bush administration's tax cuts and she supports the permanent elimination of the estate tax.

On April 5, 1995 she was one of only 27 Democrats in the House to vote in favor of the Contract With America Tax Relief Act, which was approved by the House. Lincoln also co-sponsored and supported legisation to amend the constitution to require a balanced-budget amendment. In 1996 she championed the Freedom to Farm Act.

She was reelected to a second term under her married name, Blanche Lincoln, and served in the House of Representatives until 1997. Lincoln chose not to run for reelection in 1996; she was pregnant at that time.

U.S. Senate career

In 1998, Lincoln returned to politics and ran for the Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Senator Dale Bumpers. She defeated her Republican opponent, Fay Boozman (1946–2005), a state senator and the brother of future U.S. Representative John Boozman, 385,878 (55.1 percent) to 295,870 (42.2 percent).

Lincoln served on the Senate Finance Committee; Special Committee on Aging; Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Senate Social Security Task Force; Rural Health Caucus; Senate New Democrat Coalition and chair of the Rural Outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Lincoln made history again on September 9, 2009, when she was tapped as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. In the Committee’s 184-year history, she is the first Arkansan and the first woman to serve as Chairman.

Lincoln concentrated primarily on issues involving farmers and rural issues. She is one of the primary advocates of the Delta Regional Authority, which is designed to spur development in the lower Mississippi Delta region.

Lincoln served as Arkansas's Senior Senator since 2003, serving with fellow Arkansan Mark Pryor who defeated Senator Tim Hutchinson. In 2004, Lincoln was re-elected, beating Republican State Senator Jim Holt (R-Springdale) 56%-44%, even as President Bush carried the state with 54% of the vote.

In 2004, Lincoln co-founded the Senate Hunger Caucus. The caucus was established to provide a bi-partisan forum for Senators and staff to discuss, advance and engage the Senate's work on national and international hunger and food insecurity issues.

Lincoln called for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, claiming that the firing of eight federal prosecutors has created a "serious breach between the Justice Department and Congress, a breach that I'm not sure can be repaired with Mr. Gonzales at the helm." She and her Senate colleague, Mark Pryor, were particularly upset that Gonzales reneged on a promise to have a replacement for Bud Cummins, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, go through Senate confirmation. Gonzales ultimately did resign, in August 2007.

In 2007, Lincoln played a key role in brokering the compromise that led to passage of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Also known as the “farm bill,” this legislation provides resources for nutrition, conservation, rural development, and renewable energy. Lincoln led the charge against defeating an amendment to the pending Farm Bill which would have capped government Agricultural subsidy payments at $250,000 per year, per farm. According to Lincoln, it was unfair to some farmers in her state, notably cotton growers. Even though the amendment passed (56-43), Lincoln threatened a filibuster if any amendment did not get a 60-vote majority, so the amendment was withdrawn after passage.

Lincoln also helped form the Moderate Dems Working Group, a coalition of moderate Senate Democrats whose stated goal is to work with Senate leadership and the administration toward finding bipartisan solutions to controversial political issues. In addition, she co-founded and currently co-chairs Third Way, a moderate think-tank whose self-described goals are "an economic agenda that is focused on growth and middle class success; a culture of shared values; a national security approach that is both tough and smart; and a clean energy revolution."

In September 2009, Lincoln pledged to filibuster any legislation containing a Public health insurance option, such as the Affordable Health Care for America Act, the House of Representatives' proposed health care reform bill. Lincoln voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate bill which eventually became the Barack Obama administration's health care reform bill. However, she voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, a package of amendments to the former bill passed by the reconciliation process in the Senate. She also spoke out in opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, garnering her the praise of Americans for Tax Reform.

On December 9, 2010 Lincoln missed a critical vote to repeal Don't ask, don't tell after a dental appointment and missed voting by three minutes. A supporter of the bill, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), told reporters: "She was very frustrated and apologized to both of us." She claims she would have voted for repeal had she made the vote.

Lincoln opposes bringing Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States for trial.

Her older sister is film director Mary Lambert, who directed the documentary 14 Women, which includes Lincoln herself.

Electoral history

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Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Senator's Timeline

September 30, 1960
Helena, Helena-West Helena, Phillips County, Arkansas, United States