20171218 7 influential women in politics illustration
Washington CNN  — 

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

That’s the phrase Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used in February, explaining why he interrupted Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren as she gave a speech opposing then attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.

But his words persisted, too, turning into a liberal battle cry in 2017. The phrase went viral and turned into a hashtag, used sometimes when other women in politics found themselves facing off against their colleagues on Capitol Hill or fighting back against President Donald Trump’s words.

Here’s a look at 7 women in politics from both sides of the aisle who made waves in 2017 that you should look out for in 2018, when Democrats are sure to put women at the center of their Midterm platform and Republicans will have to find ways to get women voters back.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

The New York Democrat was the first senator to issue a call for Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign in the wake of sexual assault allegations. Her remarks led to dozens more party leaders issuing the same call within hours.

Not long after, Gillibrand issued that same call for President Donald Trump. In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, she said Trump should also resign over allegations of sexual assault. At least 15 came forward before the 2016 election with a wide range of accusations against Trump, spanning from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behavior around women.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand said

These comments garnered backlash from the President, who took to Twitter to insult the senator.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!,” Trump tweeted.

Speaking in an interview with NBC’s “Today Show” the day after the Twitter exchange, Gillibrand called Trump’s remarks sexist.

“It was certainly just a sexist smear intended to silence me,” she said. “And I’m not going to be silenced on this issue. I have heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers. I believe them and he should resign for that.”

Gillibrand – who has long been making efforts to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses – is widely seen as a Democratic prospect for the 2020 race. While her aides have said there was no political calculation behind her moves, the lawmaker’s recent calls for action have helped position her to make an aggressive case against Trump in 2020.

Rep. Barbara Comstock

Comstock, a Republican, has held Virginia’s 10th district, which includes much of the affluent suburbs stretching west from Washington, DC, since 2014. Some have argued her road to re-election will be a more difficult one now that Democrats won big in Virginia earlier this year. According to a CNN exit poll of Virginia voters after they cast their ballots, nearly 3 out of 5 disapproved of the job that Trump is doing. Comstock’s race for reelection will be a key test if Republicans are to keep their majority in the House.

In the last month, the Virginia Republican – along with California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier, Gillibrand, and others – has emerged as one of the leading voices in Congress on the issue of sexual harassment and assault.

She was among the bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced legislation in November that aims to overhaul the way sexual harassment is treated on Capitol Hill, as stories of misconduct involving sitting members of Congress have rocked Washington.

In November, at a House hearing on preventing sexual harassment on the Hill, she recalled a story she heard about a staffer who quit her job after a lawmaker exposed himself.

“That kind of situation, what are we doing here for women, right now, who are dealing with someone like that?” Comstock said.

Rep. Maxine Waters

maxine water reclaiming my time
Waters inspires others to 'reclaim' their time
02:01 - Source: CNN

The California Democrat had people singing this year – literally.

In August, Waters had a showdown with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a House Financial Services Committee hearing. Her repeated phrase “reclaiming my time” – which she said after Mnuchin didn’t directly respond to her question – went viral.

Shortly after, YouTuber Mykal Kilgore, a fan of the lawmaker – who some call “Auntie Maxine” – uploaded a gospel song, inspired by the exchange to YouTube.

“Our beloved ‘Auntie’ Maxine Waters laid this sermon down so good that I had to sing about it!” the video’s description reads. “Whenever anybody tries to distract me or block me (even with praise or platitudes) I’m gonna have to let them know that I’m #ReclaimingMyTime!!!!!!!”

The video has racked up more than 400,000 views and a lot of buzz online.

Waters’ phrase also inspired the theme of this year’s Women’s Convention, which was held in Michigan in October. The convention aimed “to have participants leave inspired and motivated, with new connections, skills and strategies for working towards collective liberation for women of all races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexual identities, gender expressions, immigration statuses, religious faiths, and economic statuses,” according to its press release.

The convention honored Waters with a special lunch, where she addressed more than 4,000 attendees.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

“Donald Trump is the most dishonorable and despicable human being to ever serve in the office of the president,” Waters said at the convention, which prompted a standing ovation.

STATE RESTRICTED Nikki Haley portrait

The former South Carolina governor has become the breakout star of Trump’s Cabinet.

As CNN noted in its profile of Haley earlier this year, she has been front and center for the Trump administration. When Trump was in Virginia in August to deliver a speech on Afghanistan, soldiers were lining up for pictures with her – not the President. The next day, Haley made a blitz of television appearances praising the speech.

Recently, Haley has also been vocal about her support of women who are coming forward about sexual harassment allegations. She said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that those who speak up about inappropriate sexual behavior “should be heard,” including Trump’s accusers.

Some have said she may be a 2020 presidential contender if Trump isn’t on the ballot for some reason. The Democratic National Committee reportedly is digging into the pasts of Haley, Vice President Mike Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal

The Indian-American congresswoman from Washington state’s 7th Congressional District has been an outspoken voice on the Hill this year.

In September, Rep. Don Young of Alaska was forced to apologize to Jayapal after addressing her as “young lady” and saying she “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about” during an exchange on the House floor.

Jayapal, a Democrat, didn’t let the exchange get her down. She took to Twitter to share words of encouragement to other women of color.

“A message to women of color out there: stand strong. Refuse to be patronized or minimized. Let the small guys out there be intimated by you,” she wrote.

She told CNN: “So often, we are discredited for being brown or black, looking too young or too old, or having strong opinions. I came to Congress by the same means as my esteemed colleagues, and it is disrespectful not only to me but to those who elected me to question my intelligence or capacity.”

That wasn’t the first time she’s fought back. Jayapal, who was born in India and raised in Indonesia and Singapore, also called out California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa after he accused her of “naiveté” on the issue of immigration. She tweeted: “Thank goodness we have so many men in Congress to mansplain our naiveté. Here’s to you, @DarrellIssa.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

The Alaska senator and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were the only two GOP senators to vote against a procedural vote to dismantle Obamacare which was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

For that reason, she also became one of many lawmakers who President Trump has openly criticized.

“Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad,” he tweeted, following Murkowski’s no vote for the GOP health care bill this summer.

Murkowski’s response? She told CNN at the time that she is “not one who follows the tweets that handily.” Citing a number of policy areas that are on her agenda, Murkowski said, “I have to focus on my job. I have to focus on what I came here to do.”

The new GOP tax bill is also a win for Murkowski, as it includes a provision that would open up Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for oil and gas. That means Murkowski will be accomplishing a goal of Alaskan politicians for decades, including the late Sen. Ted Stevens and her father, former Gov. and Sen. Frank Murkowski.

She wore Hulk earrings Tuesday to honor Stevens, who was known for wearing superhero ties and would wear a Hulk tie whenever he tried to get Congress to approve oil drilling in the ANWR.

Sen. Kamala Harris

Like Gillibrand, Harris has also become a 2020 presidential contender. The California Democrat’s grilling of Trump administration officials in nationally televised hearings served as her introduction to many Democrats nationally.

During such hearings, lawmakers cut off Sen. Kamala Harris twice in one week – but she didn’t back down.

Harris questioned Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over whether he would sign a letter to give Special Counsel Robert Mueller full independence from the Justice Department in his probe.

“Senator, I’m very sensitive about time and I’d like to have a very lengthy conversation and explain that all to you,” Rosenstein told Harris.

“Can you give me a ‘yes or no’ answer?” Harris responded.

“It’s not a short answer, senator,” Rosenstein said.

“It is. Either you are willing to do that or you are not,” she responded, cutting his answer short.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona then cut off Harris.

That same week, while asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his refusal to answer questions concerning conversations he may have had with President Donald Trump, the California Democrat was interrupted. Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr then stepped in and said: “Senators, we’ll allow the chair to control the hearing. Sen. Harris, let him answer the question.”

Those moments represented breakout opportunities for a politician who had been seen as overly cautious in her previous job as California’s attorney general.

She has used that buzz – and newfound progressive stardom – to raise money for her Democratic colleagues. In the first six months of 2017, Harris has raised more than $600,000 for a dozen Senate colleagues – including $365,000 from small-dollar online contributions, CNN previously reported.

She was also the first senator to announce she’ll oppose an end-of-year spending bill if lawmakers aren’t yet “clear about what we are going to do to protect and take care of” the undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children whose status is now uncertain after President Donald Trump announced he’d eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

CNN’s Eric Bradner, Ashley Killough and Elise Labott contributed to this report.