HUTCHISON, Kathryn Ann Bailey (Kay)

Image courtesy of the Honorable Kathryn Bailey Hutchison


The first woman elected to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, Kay Bailey Hutchison addressed a wide range of issues, from transportation to healthcare, during her two decades in Congress. In 2000, Senator Hutchison’s GOP colleagues elected her Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference—making her the fifth-ranking member of the party leadership—and the first woman to hold a Republican leadership role in the Senate since 1973.1 She eventually rose to the fourth-ranking position in the conference as the Policy Committee Chairwoman.2 “One of my obstacles has been attempts to trivialize me or underestimate me,” Hutchison said in 2000, stereotyped as a “quintessential, perennial cheerleader.” “Being in the leadership is not easy. You have to learn how to deal with the issues that come to you in a professional way. And it can be done.”3

Kathryn “Kay” Ann Bailey was born in Galveston, Texas, on July 22, 1943, to Allan and Kathryn Bailey. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962, and in 1967, earned an L.L.B. from the University of Texas School of Law. In 1969, unable to find employment because law firms hired few women, she began a career as a Houston television reporter covering state politics.4 After 20 years of marriage to attorney Ray Hutchison, in 2001, the couple adopted two children: Bailey and Houston.5

While a journalist, Hutchison was inspired after an interview with Anne Armstrong—co-chair of the Republican National Committee—to enter politics, first working as Armstrong’s press secretary. In 1972, Hutchison was elected to the Texas state house of representatives. After two terms, she left the state legislature in 1976 to serve as vice-chair of the National Transportation Safety Board. After four years in that post, Hutchison returned to Texas. In 1982, she made an unsuccessful bid for an open U.S. House seat representing portions of Dallas. She spent eight years in the private sector as a banking executive and as owner of a candy manufacturing company before winning election in 1990 as the Texas State Treasurer. As treasurer, Hutchison increased returns on state investments to $1 billion annually, led a successful campaign against a state income tax, and helped cap Texas’ state debt.6 Two years later, Hutchison co-chaired the Republican National Convention, held in Houston, Texas.7

In January 1993, when Lloyd Bentsen of Texas resigned from the Senate to serve as U.S. Treasury Secretary, Hutchison announced her candidacy for the seat, and topped a crowd of 24 candidates in an open primary. In the special election she faced Democrat Bob Krueger, appointed to fill the vacant Senate seat until the election. Hutchison campaigned against the economic policies of the William Jefferson Clinton administration, and prevailed against Krueger by a 29-percent margin and was sworn into the U.S. Senate on June 14, 1993.8 In 1994, Hutchison was elected to a six-year term with 61 percent of the vote. She won her second full term in 2000 by a similar margin, with more than 4 million votes–more than any Texas statewide official in history.9 Hutchison considered a gubernatorial run in 2006 against incumbent Rick Perry but ultimately decided to seek a third term in the Senate. She won with 61.7 percent of the vote.10

Hutchison’s committee assignments in the Senate included: Armed Services; Appropriations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Intelligence; Small Business; Rules and Administration; and Veterans’ Affairs. She chaired four subcommittees: Appropriations’ Military Construction Subcommittee; Appropriations’ District of Columbia Subcommittee; Commerce’s Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee; and Commerce’s Science and Space Subcommittee.

Senator Hutchison served her entire career on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, eventually rising to Ranking Member for the 111th and 112th Congresses (2009–2013). She used her position as the chair of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine to pass legislation to even the international playing field for American shippers as well as deregulate and create greater accountability for Amtrak.11 Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, she drafted portions of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which increased cargo security on domestic flights, federalized airport screeners, and expanded the air marshal program.12 In accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Hutchison supported opening the U.S. border to Mexican trucks only if they met the same safety standards as those in the United States.13

On Commerce as well as Appropriations, Hutchison tended to two important industries in her state: aviation and space. During the 109th Congress (2005–2007), Hutchison became the chair of Commerce’s Science and Space Subcommittee. She supported funding for NASA and investment in research and education in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and sponsored the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005.14 In her farewell address to the Senate, Hutchison closed by reminding her colleagues that, “Saving the manned space exploration program and ensuring the long-term future of NASA is an essential generator for our economy.”15

With a strong personal interest in the armed forces and her state’s large number of military bases, Hutchison became a proponent of force preparedness and veterans’ services. As a member of the Armed Service Committee, Hutchison helped secure $75 million in funding for research and treatment of Gulf War Syndrome and lead the opposition to sending ground troops into Bosnia as part of a 1995 peacekeeping mission.16 From her position as both the chairwoman and ranking member of the Appropriations Military Construction Subcommittee, she worked to keep Texas military bases from closing and to establish a federal overseas basing commission to ensure the effectiveness of military installations abroad.17

Senator Hutchison established herself as a fiscal conservative—supporting the presidential line-item veto, a constitutional balanced budget amendment, and cuts to government spending—but worked across the aisle to cosponsor legislation, especially with fellow female Members of the Senate. Teaming with Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, she co-authored the Homemaker IRA, which provided stay-at-home moms the same retirement tax credit as working women.18 Hutchison later highlighted this as one of her proudest accomplishments: “I have provided retirement security opportunities for spouses, for women who were not able to contribute to an IRA when I came into the Senate. . . . It was a challenge we overcame, and I think it’s significant.”19

Hutchison was a major proponent of repealing the so-called “marriage penalty” tax—a provision which Congress incorporated into the 2001 tax overhaul package. That same year Senator Hutchison also wrote several provisions for the No Child Left Behind Act including: helping recruit teachers who were retirees or mid-career professionals; giving parents regular updates on their children’s school performance; and allowing local school districts to more easily offer single-sex education environments.20 Hutchison worked with Senator Dianne Feinstein in the 108th Congress (2003–2005) authoring legislation to create a national “Amber Alert” network to streamline the search for missing children.

In 2010, Hutchison decided to challenge Perry in the Republican primary for Texas governor. Perry defeated Hutchison in the March GOP primary by 21 points. In light of the defeat, Hutchison announced she would serve out the remainder of her term in Congress. As she contemplated a run for another six-year term in 2012, Republican activists in Texas signaled there would be a primary challenger if she sought another term.21 In January 2011, Hutchison announced she would not seek re-nomination to the Senate, saying that the decision would “give the people of Texas ample time to consider who [her] successor will be.”22

Hutchison had no plans to disappear after retirement, saying, “I want to retire from the Senate, but I don’t want to retire from being engaged and doing things.”23 In February 2013 Hutchison joined a prominent law firm as senior counsel.24 That same year she penned Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas, a book focused on the lives of extraordinary Texas women. The volume served as a follow up to her two earlier works on the lives of American women, American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country (2004) and Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers (2007).

Reflecting on her career, Hutchison recognized the uphill battle she often faced. “I’ve had to go to huge lengths to prove that I was conservative,” she noted.  “It was always assumed that I would be a squish. But I’m a no-frills conservative—a solid regular mainstream conservative.”25


1Margaret Chase Smith served as chair of the Senate Republican Conference from the 90th–92nd Congresses (1967–1973).

2Samantha Levine, “Hutchison Aims to Lead GOP’s Panel on Policy,” 22 June 2005, The Houston Chronicle: 8; “Senator Hutchison Elected as Chairman of Republican Policy Committee,” 15 November 2006, States News Service, (accessed 12 September 2014).

3Catalina Camia, “Success Stories; New Book By Nine Female Senators Offers Tips on Changing Gender Stereotypes, Bending Biases,” 25 July 2000, The Dallas Morning News: 1A.

4Politics in America, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 2004): 950; Barbara Mikulski et al., Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate (New York: HarperCollins, 2001): 21–22.

5Website of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison,, accessed 20 December 2004, (website discontinued); Politics in America, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1996): 1267.

6Website of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison,, accessed 20 December 2004, (website discontinued).

7R.G. Ratcliffe, “Candidate Profiles; For 20 Years, Hutchison Blazed Own Trail Through State Politics,” 25 April 1993, The Houston Chronicle: 3.

8Almanac of American Politics, 1994 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal, 1993): 1208.

9Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,”

10Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,”

11Nine and Counting, 209. See, Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, 105th Cong., 2nd sess. (P.L. 105-258); Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, 105th Cong., 1st sess. (P.L. 105-134).

12Tim Eaton, “Hutchison Urges More Sky Marshals,” 23 October 2001, Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Texas): A1; Michelle Mittelstadt and Jim Morris, “Hutchison’s Air-Security Bill Compromise Being Debated,” 14 November 2001, The Dallas Morning News: 12A; Jim Abrams, “Senate Passes Bill Designed to Increase Aviation Security Bill; House to Follow,” 16 November 2001, Associated Press.

13“Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,” CQ Weekly, 28 December 2002 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2004):26.

14National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, 109th Cong., 1st sess. (P.L. 109–155).

15Congressional Record, Senate, “Farewell to the Senate,” 112th Cong., 2nd sess. (19 December 2012): S8167.

16Steve Komarow and Lee Michael Katz, “Plans Readied for U.S. Troops to Join Peacekeepers,” 15 September 1995, USA Today: 2A; Richard Whittle, “Clinton Lobbies for Troops; He Tells Lawmakers Bosnia Force Needed,” 29 November 1995, The Dallas Morning News: 1A; “Gulf War Illnesses; Sen. Hutchison Has Right Approach,” 17 December 2001, The Dallas Morning News: 18A; Katie Fairbank, “Study of Gulf War Illness Gets Boost with $75 Million Allocation,” The Dallas Morning News, (accessed 15 September 2014).

17“Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison”: 26.

18In 2012, Mikulski and Texas Senator John Cornyn sponsored legislation to rename the spousal IRA the “Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA.”

19Brittany Hoover, “Sen. Hutchison Plans to Stay Active After Retirement,” 23 February 2012, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Texas),, accessed 10 July 2014.

20Website of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison,, accessed 20 December 2004, (website discontinued).

21Anna M. Tinsley, “Tea Party Candidates Vow to Take on Hutchison if She Seeks Another Term,” 5 December 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: B.

22David M. Drucker, “Hutchison First Retirement of 2012 Cycle,” 13 January 2011, Congressional Quarterly Today, (accessed 10 July 2014).

23Hoover, “Sen. Hutchison Plans to Stay Active After Retirement.”

24Richard S. Dunham, “Former Senator; Hutchison Joins Dallas Office of Houston Law Firm,” 7 February 2013, The Houston Chronicle: 2.

25Stewart M. Powell, “Hutchison Retires; Hanging Up Her Velvet Gloves; Senator Leaves Lasting Legacy After Decades in Political Arena,” 16 December 2012, The Houston Chronicle: A1.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

University of Texas
Center for American History

Austin, TX
Papers: Senatorial papers.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Hutchison, Kay Bailey. American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country. New York: William Morrow, 2004.

___. Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

___. Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

"Kathryn Ann "Kay" Bailey Hutchison," in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006.

U.S. Congress. Tributes Delivered in Congress: Kay Bailey Hutchison, United States Senator, 1993-2013. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2014.

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