The Senate on Thursday elected its first woman sergeant-at-arms, who is in charge of enforcing order in the chamber.
But nobody expects Martha Pope, 45, to drag wayward senators to the chamber, a rare duty of the post, which was created by the Constitution in 1789.
Today’s sergeant-at-arms is the head of a large bureaucracy serving the Senate in ways never envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Among other things, Pope will oversee the Senate’s telephone, printing and computer operations.
And, closer to the original intent of the job, she is the Senate’s top security officer, working with a counterpart in the House and the Capitol police force on measures to prevent terrorism and other violence in Congress. The job pays $100,400.
Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) nominated Pope last fall to become sergeant-at-arms for the 102nd Congress, which convened Thursday. She succeeds Henry K. Giugni, a burly former police officer.
Pope, a former art instructor who came to Washington in the 1970s, became an advocate of environmental legislation. She rose through the ranks and became Mitchell’s chief of staff, one of the most influential behind-the-scenes legislative operatives.
The sergeant-at-arms, however, is traditionally a nonpartisan, non-legislative post. Pope said that she plans to break tradition and keep her hand on issues.
“I don’t want to feel that, becoming sergeant-at-arms, I’m still not involved” with the Senate’s work, she said. “I want to, in a more direct way, continue to work on specific, important issues that arise.”
Experts on her staff can handle the day-to-day services provided to the Senate, she said.
Pope said that, although the new job might seem an odd fit, she viewed it as a natural step from her positions as Mitchell’s legislative director and then chief of staff. Both of those jobs carried heavy administrative burdens along with her legislative duties.
Pope laughs at the prospect that she one day might be called on to round up and arrest senators who fail to respond to a call of the quorum. Giugni once carried Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) to the chamber when the veteran lawmaker refused to go voluntarily.
“I’ll try to be persuasive,” she said.