Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office


Marilyn N. Musgrave joined the 108th Congress (2003–2005) as the United States Representative from eastern Colorado. Her modest upbringing in a small rural community helped to forge her core beliefs as a social and fiscal conservative. “Government does not have a revenue problem. What we have is a spending problem,” she declared on the House Floor.1

Marilyn Musgrave was born Marilyn Neoma on January 27, 1949, in Greeley, Colorado. She attended Eaton High School and worked as a waitress and cleaned houses. She married Roger (Steve) Musgrave while attending Colorado State University in 1968. After earning a BA in social studies, Musgrave taught school in Genoa, Colorado, before moving to Fort Morgan. In Fort Morgan the Musgraves started their own agricultural business, after which Marilyn Musgrave devoted herself full time to raising their three children.2 Once her children were in school, Musgrave became the “consummate volunteer,” working for a variety of community organizations, including various Republican causes.3

Musgrave’s political career began when she won a seat on the Fort Morgan school board in 1990, where she served for four years. After completing the intensive Republican Leadership Program to prepare for a future in politics, Musgrave was elected to the Colorado state legislature in 1994. During her four years in the state house, and her subsequent four years in the Colorado state senate from 1999 through 2003, Musgrave supported a variety of conservative legislative initiatives, including tax cuts, gun rights, deregulation, and anti-abortion policies; she also opposed gay marriage.4

When Republican Representative Robert W. Schaffer retired from the House in 2002 after having pledged to only serve three terms, Musgrave entered the race for the open congressional seat which covered most of Colorado east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Musgrave won the Republican primary on August 13, 2002, with two-thirds of the vote. “I want to go to Washington to continue the conservative Reagan Republican agenda of lower taxes, limited government, a strong military, defense of our constitutional freedoms and protection of our pro-life, pro-family values,” she said after the primary.5 In the general election, Musgrave defeated Democrat Stan Matsunaga with 55 percent of the vote, winning all 18 counties in the district, and continuing its 30-year tradition of sending Republicans to Congress. Musgrave faced Matsunaga again in 2004 and was re-elected with 51 percent of the vote. Two years later, when Republicans lost their majority in the House during the 2006 mid-terms, Musgrave received a plurality of the vote—46 to 43 percent—against Democrat Angie Paccione; the remaining votes went to a third-party candidate.6

In the House, Musgrave received assignments on the Agriculture, the Education and the Workforce, and the Small Business Committees. In the 109th Congress (2005–2007), Musgrave gained an additional seat on the Resources Committee. As a member of the Small Business Committee, Musgrave became head of the Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs Subcommittee in her second term. Musgrave also was elected by her peers to serve on the House Republican Steering Committee.7 She was a member of the Republican Study Committee, a group that develops legislative proposals, and she also was the Policy Chair of the Western Caucus.8

In Congress, Musgrave worked to limit spending and cut taxes. She opposed a Republican-sponsored measure to hike the federal gas tax, remaining firm in her conviction that “raising the gas tax is not only bad policy, it is bad politics.”9 She also opposed the George W. Bush administration’s 2003 Medicare drug prescription bill, despite intense lobbying from the White House.10 Musgrave gained national prominence when she sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned gay marriage by defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman—an initiative President Bush endorsed during his 2004 re-election campaign. Musgrave’s measure reached a vote before the full House in the 108th and 109th Congresses, but it was defeated both times.11 Musgrave routinely introduced amendments to major appropriations bills to reduce funding levels by half a percent, asserting that the small reductions would have limited impact in government operations but would add up over time. “It is a shave that won’t even give you a rash,” she said.12

As chair of the Small Business Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs, Musgrave held hearings on right to work laws and sought to limit the power of labor unions. In 2005 she cosponsored the National Right to Work Act, which would have outlawed certain requirements that employees join unions.13

From her seat on the Agriculture Committee, Musgrave pushed to fund disaster assistance programs for farmers in her state after years of drought. In 2004 she broke from her party to support an amendment providing $2.8 billion in agricultural disaster aid. The amendment was included in a supplemental appropriations bill, but it stalled in the Senate.14 In 2006 she was the first Republican to sign a widely-circulated discharge petition in an attempt to bring another agricultural disaster assistance bill to the floor.15 Musgrave also served on the conference committee to finalize the $300 billion farm bill in 2008, and then helped lead the effort to override President George W. Bush’s veto of the measure. Musgrave successfully included provisions that encouraged the production of domestic biofuels and price-support programs for sugar, a major Colorado crop.16

As an advocate for gun rights, Musgrave added an amendment to a House-passed appropriations bill that blocked the Justice Department from enforcing regulations requiring handguns to be equipped with trigger locks.17

In the 2008 general election, Musgrave faced Democrat Betsy Markey, a former Senate aide and federal worker. In an election year that saw Democrat Barack Obama win the White House, Markey unseated Musgrave with 56 percent of the vote after a tough and at times contentious race.18

Musgrave remained active in the anti-abortion movement after Capitol Hill. She serves as vice president of government affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List which advocates for candidates and laws to end abortion.19


1“Our Campaigns,” accessed 30 March 2004, (link discontinued); Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (28 June 2007): H7388.

2“Our Campaigns”; “Marilyn Musgrave,” NNDB, accessed 3 December 2019,

3M. E. Sprengelmeyer, “In the Spotlight for Better or Worse: Rep. Marilyn Musgrave,” 27 November 2003, Scripps Howard News Service.

4Politics in America, 2004 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2003): 183.

5“Our Campaigns.”

6Almanac of American Politics, 2004 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, 2003): 319–321; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

7Congressional Directory, 108th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2003): 478; Congressional Directory, 109th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2005): 433, 449, 482.

8Anne C. Mulkern, “Colorado Republican Delegation,” 28 September 2008, Denver Post: A21; Mike Soraghan, “Musgrave Lands a 4th Committee Assignment,” 20 February 2005, Denver Post: A10.

9Bill McAllister and Mike Soraghan, “Beauprez, Musgrave Feted in D.C. as New Colorado House Members,” 8 January 2003, Denver Post: A6; Marilyn Musgrave, “Building More Roads Without Raising Taxes,” 11 February 2004, The Hill: 22; Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2007): 188–189.

10Juliet Eilperin, “Medicare Bill Has House Conservatives Grumbling,” 15 July 2003, Washington Post: A4.

11“Musgrave Amendment Strengthens Marriage,” official website of Representative Marilyn Musgrave, 24 May 2004,; Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage, H.J. Res 106, 108th Congress (2004); Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage, H.J. Res. 88, 109th Cong. (2006).

12Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (27 June 2007): H7231; Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (26 July 2007): H8655–H8656; Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (24 July 2007): H8368.

13Hearing before the House Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs, Union Salting—Organizing Against Small Business, 109th Cong., 1st sess. (2005): 1; Hearing before the House Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs, Freedom in the Workplace, An Examination of a National Right to Work Law, 109th Cong., 1st sess. (2005); National Right-to-Work Act, H.R. 500, 109th Cong. (2005).

14Anne C. Mulkern, “Musgrave Joins Push to Add $2.9 Billion in Drought Aid to Hurricane Relief,” 10 October 2004, Denver Post: A4; Congressional Record, House, 108th Congress., 2nd sess. (6 October 2004): H8304, H8306–H8307; Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Hurricane Disasters Assistance Act, 2005, H.R. 5212, 108th Cong. (2004).

15Faith Bremner, “Musgrave Defies Party Leaders to Support Farmers,” 28 September 2006, Gannett News Service.

16David Rogers, “A Fumble on the Farm Bill,” 22 May 2008, Politico: n.p.; “Musgrave Named to Farm Bill Conference Committee,” 10 April 2008, Greely Tribune (CO): n.p.; Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, PL 110-234, 122 Stat. 923 (2008).

17Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong, 2nd sess. (28 June 2006): H4760, H4776–H4777; Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007, H.R. 5672, 109th Cong. (2006).

18Jessica Fender, “Fierce Attacks Mark Debate, Musgrave and Markey Trade Criticism Over Ethics, Alleged Flip-Flops and Contributors,” 22 October 2008, Denver Post: B4; Monte Whaley, “4th District Markey Unseats Musgrave, Democratic Challenger Thrashes Three-Term Incumbent in Evolving, Sprawling District,” 5 November 2008, Denver Post: A19; “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

19“Marilyn Musgrave,” Susan B. Anthony List, accessed 1 November 2019,

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

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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Marilyn N. Musgrave" 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: Government Printing Office, 2006.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Agriculture
  • House Committee - Education and the Workforce
  • House Committee - Resources
  • House Committee - Small Business
    • Workforce, Empowerment and Government Programs - Chair
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