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 worked on a wide range of issues, from transportation to health care, during her two decades in Congress. In 2000 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 since 1973 to hold a Republican leadership role in the Senate.1 “One of my obstacles has been attempts to trivialize me or underestimate me,” Hutchison said in 2000, noting that she had been stereotyped as a “quintessential, perennial cheerleader.”2 She eventually rose to the fourth-ranking position in the conference as the Policy Committee Chairwoman.3

Kay Bailey Hutchison was born Kathryn Ann (Kay) Bailey in Galveston, Texas, on July 22, 1943, to Allan and Kathryn Bailey. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962. She earned an LLB from the University of Texas School of Law in 1967 but was unable to find employment because law firms discriminated against women attorneys. “I just hit the brick wall,” Hutchison recalled. “I mean, I couldn’t get a job. Law firms didn’t hire women. I had a number of interviews, but they were all very disappointing. And so I began to think about looking for something other than a law firm.”4 She began a career as a Houston television reporter covering state politics.5 In 2001, after 20 years of marriage to attorney Ray Hutchison, the couple adopted two children: Bailey and Houston.6

As a journalist, Hutchison had been inspired after an interview with Anne Armstrong, the Republican National Committee co-chair, to enter politics by first working as Armstrong’s press secretary. In 1972 Hutchison was elected to the Texas state house of representatives, where she cosponsored one of the nation’s first laws to protect the victims of rape. “The bill that we wrote and fought very hard to pass, and finally did pass” she recalled, “became the model for the nation in treatment of rape victims. Four years later, she left the state legislature to serve as vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.7 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 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’s state debt.8 Two years later, Hutchison co-chaired the Republican National Convention, held in Houston, Texas.9

In January 1993, when Senator Lloyd Millard Bentsen Jr. of Texas became United States Treasury Secretary, Hutchison announced her candidacy for the vacant seat and topped a crowd of 24 candidates in an open primary. In the special election she faced Democrat Robert Charles Krueger, who had been appointed to fill Bentsen’s seat until the election. Hutchison campaigned against the economic policies of the William J. (Bill) Clinton administration and prevailed against Krueger by a 29-percent margin. She took office as a United States Senator on June 14, 1993.10 The following year, Hutchison won election 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 four million votes—more than any statewide official in Texas history.11 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.12

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 five subcommittees: the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittees on Military Construction and District of Columbia, as well as the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittees on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine, Science and Space, and Aviation.13

Hutchison served on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee throughout her Senate service, eventually rising to Ranking Member for the 111th and 112th Congresses (2009–2013). She used her position as chair of the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee to pass legislation to try to level the international playing field for American shippers as well as to deregulate and create greater accountability for Amtrak.14 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.15 In accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement, Hutchison supported opening the U.S. border to Mexican trucks only if they met the same safety standards as those in the United States.16

On Commerce, as well as Appropriations, Hutchison tended to two important industries in her state: aviation and space. During the 109th Congress (2005–2007), she became the chair of Commerce’s Science and Space Subcommittee. She supported funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and investment in research and education in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. In 2005 she sponsored the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act which became law that December.17 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.”18

With a strong personal interest in the armed forces and her state’s many military bases, Hutchison became a proponent of force preparedness and veterans’ services. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, she helped secure $75 million in funding for research and treatment of Gulf War Syndrome and led the opposition to sending ground troops into Bosnia as part of a 1995 peacekeeping mission.19 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.20

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 A. Mikulski of Maryland, she coauthored the Homemaker IRA (individual retirement account), which provided stay-at-home moms the same retirement tax credit as working women.21 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.”22

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 Hutchison wrote several provisions for the No Child Left Behind Act: measures to help recruit teachers who were retirees or mid-career professionals; to give parents regular updates on their children’s school performance; and to allow local school districts to more easily offer single-sex education environments.23 Hutchison worked with California Senator Dianne Feinstein in the 108th Congress (2003–2005) to author legislation establishing a national “Amber Alert” network, streamlining the search for missing children.24

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. After the race, Hutchison returned to the Senate to serve out the remainder of her term. 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.25 In January 2011, Hutchison announced she would not seek renomination to the Senate, saying that the decision would “give the people of Texas ample time to consider who [her] successor will be.”26

Hutchison had no plans to disappear after retirement, however, saying, “I want to retire from the Senate, but I don’t want to retire from being engaged and doing things.”27 In February 2013 she joined a prominent law firm as senior counsel.28 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).

On August 15, 2017, Hutchison became the U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, having been nominated to the post by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote.29

Reflecting on her career, Hutchison recognized the uphill climb she often faced, particularly in battling stereotypes about women in politics. “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.”30


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

2Catalina 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.

3Samantha Levine, “Hutchison Aims to Lead GOP’s Panel on Policy,” 22 June 2005, Houston Chronicle: 8; “Senator Hutchison Elected as Chairman of Republican Policy Committee,” official website of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, press release, 29 November 2006,

4Kay Bailey Hutchison Oral History Interview, U.S. Senate Historical Office, January 6, 2017.

5Politics in America, 2004 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 2004): 950; Barbara Mikulski et al., Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate (New York: HarperCollins, 2001): 21–22.

6Politics in America, 2004: 951.

7Kay Bailey Hutchison Oral History Interview, Senate Historical Office, January 6, 2017.

8Almanac of American Politics, 2004 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, 2003): 1517–1518; “Biography,” official website of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, 26 January 2005,; Richard Jerome, “Texas Trailblazer,” 19 March 2001, People,

9R. G. Ratcliffe, “Candidate Profiles; For 20 Years, Hutchison Blazed Own Trail Through State Politics,” 25 April 1993, The Houston Chronicle: 3.

10Almanac of American Politics, 1994 (Washington, DC: National Journal, 1993): 1208.

11Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

12“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

13Congressional Directory, 106th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1999): 347, 357; Congressional Directory, 109th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2005): 339, 351; Hearing before the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, S. 633: Aviation Delay Prevention Act, 107th Cong., 1st sess. (2001): 1.

14Mikulski et al., Nine and Counting: 209; Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, S. 414, 105th Cong. (1997); Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, PL 105-228, 112 Stat. 1902 (1998); Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, S. 738, 105th Cong. (1997); Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, PL 105-134, 111 Stat. 2570 (1997).

15Tim 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.

16Mike Sherry, “Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,” CQ Weekly, 28 December 2002 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2004):26.

17National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, S. 1281, 109th Cong. (2005); National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, PL 109-155, 119 Stat. 2895 (2005).

18Congressional Record, Senate, “Farewell to the Senate,” 112th Cong., 2nd sess. (19 December 2012): S8167.

19Steve 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, Dallas Morning News: 1A; “Gulf War Illnesses; Sen. Hutchison Has Right Approach,” 17 December 2001, Dallas Morning News: 18A; Katie Fairbank, “Study of Gulf War Illness Gets Boost with $75 Million Allocation,” 21 November 2005, Knight Ridder Tribune Service: 1.

20Sherry, “Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison”: 26.

21In 2012, Mikulski and Texas Senator John Cornyn sponsored legislation to rename the spousal IRA the “Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA.”

22Brittany Hoover, “Sen. Hutchison Plans to Stay Active After Retirement,” 23 February 2012, Avalanche-Journal  (Lubbock, TX): n.p.

23“Biography,” official website of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; Almanac of American Politics, 2004: 1516–1517.

24National AMBER Alert Network Act of 2003, S. 121, 108th Congress (2003); PROTECT Act, PL 108-21, 117 Stat. 650 (2003).

25Anna M. Tinsley, “Tea Party Candidates Vow to Take on Hutchison if She Seeks Another Term,” 5 December 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: B.

26David M. Drucker, “Hutchison First Retirement of 2012 Cycle,” 13 January 2011, Congressional Quarterly Today: n.p.

27Hoover, “Sen. Hutchison Plans to Stay Active After Retirement.”

28Richard S. Dunham, “Former Senator; Hutchison Joins Dallas Office of Houston Law Firm,” 7 February 2013, Houston Chronicle: 2.

29Kevin Diaz, “Senate confirms Kay Bailey Hutchison as NATO envoy,” 3 August 2017, Houston Chronicle,

30Stewart M. Powell, “Hutchison Retires; Hanging Up Her Velvet Gloves; Senator Leaves Lasting Legacy After Decades in Political Arena,” 16 December 2012, 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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