"The House is such a part of the fabric of my life. It’s such a part of me, even still. Even going to work, and I’m driving down Pennsylvania Avenue, and there’s the [Capitol] dome. And I’m turning left to go downtown. Even still, there’s this sense of—that is so much a part of who I am."
—Muftiah McCartin, January 29, 2016
Drawn to Washington, D.C., by the excitement of the Watergate hearings, Muftiah McCartin looked for a job on Capitol Hill in the early 1970s. After interviewing with a number of offices, she took a secretarial position in the House Parliamentarian’s Office and planned to stay for six months. Thirty-four years later, she had built an impressive career as a parliamentarian and a committee staffer, becoming the first woman to hold the title of assistant House parliamentarian.
In her interview, McCartin traces her first 10 years on the Hill as the only woman in her office. Her male colleagues in the Parliamentarian’s Office, as well as Speaker Tip O'Neill, encouraged her while she worked full time, earned her law degree, and raised her child as a single parent. McCartin describes her experience providing nonpartisan procedural guidance for Members, as well as her role in significant moments on the House Floor, including a ruling during the impeachment of President William J. “Bill” Clinton in 1998. She also recalls her transition to committee work, where she learned how to create legislation and eventually served as staff director for the House Rules Committee.
Muftiah (Koach) McCartin started her 34-year House career in the Parliamentarian’s Office, a nonpartisan office responsible for providing objective assistance on legislative and parliamentary procedure. After 14 years in the office, McCartin became an assistant parliamentarian, the first woman to hold that position.
McCartin was born in 1955 and grew up in Northern Virginia. The Watergate crisis and the series of reforms that followed drew her to the Hill shortly after she graduated from Robinson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. She accepted a job with House Parliamentarian Bill Brown in 1976 and quickly developed close relationships with her colleagues. With their encouragement, McCartin furthered her education in order to advance her career.
While working full time and raising her daughter as a single parent, McCartin completed an undergraduate degree in political science through the University Without Walls program offered by Northeastern Illinois University in 1985. In 1990, she earned a law degree from Georgetown Law. As a parliamentarian, she worked on the dais with presiding officers, assisted Representatives and committees with their legislative duties, and created procedural reference records.
In 2006, after 29 years in the Parliamentarian’s Office, McCartin joined the staff of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and worked to create antipoverty programs. In 2007, she became the deputy staff director for the Rules Committee, and two years later served as the committee’s staff director. In 2010, McCartin retired from the House. She now works as counsel at a Washington law firm.
Starting on the Hill: Part One
Muftiah McCartin remembers being interviewed by Chairman Jack Brooks of Texas for a secretarial position.
Starting on the Hill: Part Two
Muftiah McCartin recalls leaving her first position on the Hill to work in the Parliamentarian's Office in 1976.
Support from Speaker O'Neill
Muftiah McCartin shares a personal memory of Speaker Tip O'Neill of Massachusetts, who refused her resignation.
Women on the Rostrum
Muftiah McCartin recalls being allowed on the rostrum for the first time.
"Oh, My Mom's Home"
Muftiah McCartin reflects on working full-time, going to school part-time, and raising her daughter.
Sharing a Desk
Muftiah McCartin remembers sharing a desk with the only other woman in the office, Gay Topper.
"Finding My Voice"
Muftiah McCartin describes the transition from office clerk to assistant parliamentarian.
Dress Code for Women Members
Muftiah McCartin discusses the difference in dress code for men and women Representatives.
"An Extraordinary Place to Grow Up"
Muftiah McCartin reflects on the significance of working in the House.