Tammy Duckworth (born March 12, 1968) is an American politician and former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who has served as the junior United States Senator for Illinois since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, she represented Illinois's 8th district in the United States House of Representatives from 2013 to 2017. Before election to office, she served as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (2009–11) and Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (2006–09). Duckworth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, defeating Republican incumbent Mark Kirk.
Duckworth was the first Thai American woman elected to Congress, the first born in Thailand elected to Congress, the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress, the first female double amputee in the Senate, and the first Senator to give birth while in office. Duckworth is the second Asian American woman serving in the U.S. Senate, after Mazie Hirono, and before Kamala Harris.
A combat veteran of the Iraq War, Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot and suffered severe combat wounds, which caused her to lose both of her legs and some mobility in her right arm. She was the first female double amputee from the war. Despite her grievous injuries, she sought and obtained a medical waiver that allowed her to continue serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard along with her husband, Major Bryan W. Bowlsbey, a signal officer and fellow Iraq War veteran. Both have since retired from the armed forces.
Early life and education
Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, the daughter of Lamai Sompornpairin and Franklin Duckworth. Her father, who died in 2005, was a U.S. Army veteran[better source needed] who traced his family's American roots to the American Revolutionary War. Her mother is Thai Chinese. Because of her father's work with the United Nations and international companies in refugee, housing, and development programs, the family moved around Southeast Asia. Duckworth became fluent in Thai and Indonesian, in addition to English.
Duckworth attended Singapore American School, and for a few months in her senior year was at the International School Bangkok, and was in the class of 1985 at Jakarta Intercultural School (then known as Jakarta International School). The family settled in Hawaii when she was sixteen. Her father was unemployed for a time, and the family relied on public assistance. She graduated with honors from McKinley High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1985, having skipped the ninth grade. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and later received a Master of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. She completed a PhD in Human Services at Capella University in March 2015.
Following in the footsteps of her father, who served in World War II, and ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War, Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps as a graduate student at George Washington University in 1990. She became a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve in 1992 and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women at that time. As a member of the Army Reserve, she went to flight school, later transferring to the Army National Guard and entering the Illinois Army National Guard in 1996. Duckworth also worked as a staff supervisor at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston, Illinois and was the coordinator of the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University.
Duckworth was working towards a Ph.D. in political science at Northern Illinois University, with research interests in the political economy and public health in southeast Asia, when she was deployed to Iraq in 2004. She lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. She was the first American female double amputee from the Iraq War. The explosion severely broke her right arm and tore tissue from it, necessitating major surgery to repair it. Duckworth received a Purple Heart on December 3 and was promoted to Major on December 21 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she was presented with an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal. She retired from the Illinois Army National Guard in October 2014 as a lieutenant colonel.
The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a statue with Duckworth's likeness and that of the Revolution's Molly Pitcher in Mount Vernon, Illinois, in 2011. The statue was dedicated in honor of female veterans.
On November 21, 2006, several weeks after losing her first congressional campaign, Duckworth was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs by Governor Rod Blagojevich. She served in that position until February 8, 2009. While Director, she was credited with starting a program to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and veterans with brain injury.
On September 17, 2008, Duckworth attended a campaign event for Dan Seals, the Democratic candidate for Illinois's 10th congressional district. She used vacation time, but violated Illinois law by going to the event in a state-owned van that was equipped for a person with physical disabilities. She acknowledged the mistake and repaid the state for the use of the van.
In 2009, two Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs employees at the Anna Veterans' Home in Union County filed a lawsuit against Duckworth. The lawsuit alleged that she wrongfully terminated one employee and threatened and intimidated another for bringing reports of abuse and misconduct of veterans when she was head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth was represented in the suit by the Illinois Attorney General's office. The case was dismissed twice but refilings were allowed. The court set a tentative trial date of August 2016 and rejected the final motion to dismiss. The state announced that it had settled the case in June 2016 for $26,000 with no admission of wrongdoing. The plaintiffs later indicated they no longer wanted to settle, but the judge gave them 21 days to sign the settlement and canceled the trial.
Also in 2009, the Illinois Auditor General released an audit of the Veterans Affairs department. Some issues noted by the audit predated Duckworth's tenure, but the majority of it covered her tenure. Its findings included a fiscal year 2007 report that was not completed on time, failure to conduct annual reviews of benefits received by Illinois veterans, and failure to establish a task force to study the possible health effects of exposure to hazardous materials. The routine audit covered a two-year period, June 2006 to June 2008, and the auditor's department called its findings "typical" of its audits.
On February 3, 2009, Duckworth was nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The United States Senate confirmed her for the position on April 22. Duckworth resigned her position in June 2011 in order to launch her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois's 8th Congressional District.
U.S. House of Representatives
After longtime incumbent Republican Henry Hyde announced his retirement from Congress, several candidates began campaigning for the open seat. Duckworth won the Democratic primary with a plurality of 44%, defeating 2004 nominee Christine Cegelis with 40%, and Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott with 16%. State Senator Peter Roskam was unopposed in the Republican primary. For the general election, Duckworth was endorsed by EMILY's List, a political action committee that supports female Democratic candidates who back abortion rights. Duckworth was also endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Fraternal Order of Police. While she raised $4.5 million to Roskam's $3.44 million, Duckworth lost by 4,810 votes, receiving 49% to Roskam's 51%.
In July 2011, Duckworth launched her campaign to run in 2012 for Illinois's 8th congressional district. She defeated former Deputy Treasurer of Illinois Raja Krishnamoorthi for the Democratic nomination on March 20, 2012, then faced incumbent Republican Joe Walsh in the general election. Duckworth received the endorsement of both the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald. Walsh generated controversy when in July 2012, at a campaign event, he accused Duckworth of politicizing her military service and injuries, saying "my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it's the last thing in the world they talk about." Walsh called the controversy over his comments "a political ploy to distort my words and distract voters" and said that "Of course Tammy Duckworth is a hero ... I have called her a hero hundreds of times."
On November 6, 2012, Duckworth defeated Walsh 55%–45%. She became the first woman with a disability to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.
In the 2014 general election, Duckworth faced Republican Larry Kaifesh, a United States Marine Corps officer who had recently left active duty as a colonel. Duckworth defeated Kaifesh with 56% of the vote.
Duckworth was sworn into office on January 3, 2013.
On April 3, 2013, Duckworth publicly returned 8.4% ($1,218) of her congressional salary for that month to the United States Department of Treasury in solidarity with furloughed government workers.
On June 26, 2013, during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Duckworth received national media attention after questioning Strong Castle CEO Braulio Castillo on a $500 million government contract the company had been awarded based on Castillo's disabled veteran status.
House committee assignments
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements (2013–2015)
- Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs (2013–2015)
- Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets, Ranking Member (2015–2017)
- Subcommittee on Information Technology (2015–2017)
- United States House Select Committee on Benghazi (May 2014–July 2016)
On March 30, 2015, Duckworth announced that she would challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Kirk for his seat in the 2016 Senate election in Illinois. Duckworth defeated fellow Democrats Andrea Zopp and Napoleon Harris in the primary election on March 15, 2016.
During a televised debate on October 27, 2016, Duckworth talked about her ancestors' past service in the United States military. Kirk responded, "I'd forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington." The comment led to the Human Rights Campaign withdrawing their endorsement of Kirk and switching it to Duckworth, stating his comments were "deeply offensive and racist."
On November 8, Duckworth defeated Kirk 54 percent to 40 percent to win the Senate seat. Duckworth and Kamala Harris, who was also elected in 2016, are the second and third female Asian American senators, after Mazie Hirono who was elected in 2012.
In January 2018, following a federal government shut down after the Senate could not agree on a funding bill, Duckworth responded to President Trump's accusations that the Democrats were putting "unlawful immigrants" ahead of the military:
I spent my entire adult life looking out for the well-being, the training, the equipping of the troops for whom I was responsible. Sadly, this is something that the current occupant of the Oval Office does not seem to care to do — and I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger. And I have a message for Cadet Bone Spurs: If you cared about our military, you'd stop baiting Kim Jong Un into a war that could put 85,000 American troops, and millions of innocent civilians, in danger.
Duckworth became the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office in 2018. Shortly afterward, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 463, which was introduced by Duckworth on April 12, 2018. The Senate passed Senate Resolution 463 by unanimous consent and Senate rules were changed so that a Senator has the right to bring a child under one year old on the Senate floor during votes. The day after those rules were changed, Maile became the first baby on the Senate floor when Duckworth brought her.
According to The Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL), a joint partnership between the University of Virginia's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Vanderbilt University, Duckworth achieved a "Legislative Effectiveness Score" (LES) of "Exceeds Expectations" as a freshman Senator in the 115th Congress (2017-2018). In the 115th Congress, Duckworth's LES ranked 11th highest out of 48 Democratic Senators. On April 15, 2020, the Trump administration invited Duckworth to join a bipartisan task force on the reopening of the economy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate committee assignments
- Committee on Armed Services (2019–present)
- Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
- Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet
- Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security
- Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
- Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (2017–2019)
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
In April 2019, Duckworth was one of twelve senators to sign a bipartisan letter to top senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development advocating for the Energy Department to be granted with maximum funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), citing American job growth could be stimulated through investment in creating viable options to capture carbon emissions released into the atmosphere and expressing disagreement with the 2020 budget request of President Trump that called for combining the two federal programs that include carbon capture research.
During her unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2006, Duckworth called on Congress to audit the estimated $437 billion spent on overseas military and foreign aid since September 11, 2001.
In October 2006, The Sunday Times reported that Duckworth agreed with General Sir Richard Dannatt, the British Army chief, that the presence of coalition troops was exacerbating the conflict in Iraq.
In May 2019, Duckworth was a cosponsor of the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act, a bipartisan bill reintroduced by Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin that was intended to disrupt China's consolidation or expansion of its claims of jurisdiction over both the sea and air space in disputed zones in the South China Sea.
Duckworth was rated by the National Rifle Association as having a pro-gun control congressional voting record. Duckworth, who is a gun owner herself, cites violence in Chicago as a major influence for her support of gun control. She supports universal background checks and the halting of state-to-state gun trafficking.
Duckworth participated in the 2016 Chris Murphy gun control filibuster. During the sit-in, Duckworth hid her mobile phone in her prosthetic leg to avoid it being taken away from her since taking pictures and recording on the House floor is against policy.
In a 2016 interview with GQ magazine, Duckworth stated that gaining control of the Senate and "closing the gap" in the House would be necessary in order to pass common sense gun laws. She also stated that she believed moderate Republicans, who support common sense gun control, would have more power to influence gun control if they were not "pushed aside by those folks who are absolutely beholden to the NRA. And so we never get the vote."
Duckworth supports comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. She would admit 100,000 Syrian refugees into the United States.
In August 2018, Duckworth was one of seventeen senators to sign a letter spearheaded by Kamala Harris to United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen demanding that the Trump administration take immediate action in attempting to reunite 539 migrant children with their families, citing each passing day of inaction as intensifying "trauma that this administration has needlessly caused for children and their families seeking humanitarian protection."
|Democratic||L. Tammy Duckworth||14,283||43.85|
|Republican||Peter J. Roskam||91,382||51.35|
|Democratic||L. Tammy Duckworth||86,572||48.65|
|Write-in votes||Patricia Elaine Beard||3||0.00|
|Republican||Joe Walsh (incumbent)||101,860||45.26|
|Democratic||Tammy Duckworth (incumbent)||84,178||55.73|
|Democratic||Patricia Elaine Beard||1||0.00|
|Republican||Mark Steven Kirk (incumbent)||2,184,692||39.78|
|Write-in votes||Chad Koppie||408||0.01|
|Write-in votes||Jim Brown||106||0.00|
|Write-in votes||Christopher Aguayo||77||0.00|
|Write-in votes||Susana Sandoval||42||0.00|
|Write-in votes||Eric Kufi James Stewart||5||0.00|
|Write-in votes||Patricia Beard||1||0.00|
Duckworth helped establish the Intrepid Foundation to help injured veterans.
Awards and accolades
In 2011, Duckworth was honored by Chicago's Access Living for her work on behalf of veterans with disabilities.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Senator from Kansas Bob Dole dedicated his autobiography One Soldier's Story in part to Duckworth. Duckworth credits Dole for inspiring her to pursue public service, while she recuperated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; although, in 2006, Dole endorsed Duckworth's Republican opponent, Peter Roskam.
Duckworth is married to Bryan Bowlsbey. The couple has two daughters: Abigail, who was born in 2014, and Maile, born in 2018. Maile's birth made Duckworth the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office. Former senator Daniel Akaka (Democrat of Hawaii) helped the couple with the naming of both daughters; Akaka died April 6, 2018, three days before Maile was born. Shortly after Maile's birth, a Senate rule change permitted senators to bring children under one year old on the Senate floor to breastfeed. The day after the rule change, Duckworth brought Maile with her during the casting of a Senate vote, making Duckworth the first senator to cast a vote while holding a baby.
- List of Asian Americans and Pacific Islands Americans in the United States Congress
- List of United States Senators born outside the United States
- Fighting Dems
- Women in the United States House of Representatives
- Women in the United States Senate
- "ประกาศสำนักนายกรัฐมนตรี เรื่อง พระราชทานเครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์ให้แก่ชาวต่างประเทศ (พันตรีหญิง ลัดดา แทมมี ดั๊กเวิร์ด)" [Announcement of the Prime Minister's Office on granting decorations to foreigners (Major Ladda Tammy Duckworth)] (PDF). Royal Thai Government Gazette (in Thai). January 15, 2010.
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- Editorial board (October 8, 2012). "Endorsement: Duckworth over Walsh in 8th Congressional District". Daily Herald.
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- "HRC Revokes Endorsement Following Racist Comments of Senator Mark Kirk". Human Rights Campaign. October 29, 2016. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
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Finally, we note those new freshmen lawmakers who are off to a promising start in their first two years, scoring in our “Exceeds Expectations” category in their first term in office. Research suggests that performance in a lawmaker’s freshman term is highly correlated with subsequent lawmaking effectiveness, as well as with their overall career trajectory.
Among them are two Senators (out of the eleven Senators in their freshman class), John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. Kennedy sponsored 26 bills, including four that passed the Senate and eventually became law, on issues ranging from national flood insurance and small business disaster loans to mandatory disclosure of corrupt practices among lobbyists. Duckworth shepherded three of her 45 proposed bills into law, including the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act of 2018.
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- Mr. Rubio (for himself, Mr. Cardin, Mr. Cotton, Mr. Kaine, Mr. Young, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Hawley, Mrs. Gillibrand, Mr. Scott of Florida, Mr. Manchin, Mrs. Blackburn, Ms. Duckworth, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Romney) (May 23, 2019). "Text - S.1634 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act of 2019 - Congress.gov - Library of Congress". Congress.gov. 116th United States Congress. Archived from the original on April 24, 2020. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
A BILL To impose sanctions with respect to the People's Republic of China in relation to activities in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, and for other purposes.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tammy Duckworth.|
- Senator Tammy Duckworth official U.S. Senate site
- Tammy Duckworth for Senate official campaign site
- Tammy Duckworth at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Front & Center with John Callaway: Returning Veterans: How Warm A Welcome? at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, July 12, 2007
| Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
| Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 8th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Illinois
Served alongside: Dick Durbin
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority