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It's Time for Hardball, Says Progressive Congresswoman Donna Edwards

Those who expect Edwards to play from the margins to which left-wing politicians are frequently relegated will find themselves disappointed. She came to get stuff done.

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., was angry. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with the approval of the White House, had just offered up the deficit-reduction deal that would reel the nation in from the brink of default on the national debt, a precipice to which the country was marched by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Instead of taking on the Tea Partiers' demands for deep cuts to social programs in exchange for granting the president permission to raise the debt ceiling, the White House and the Senate majority leader were folding.

When the going gets tough, sometimes the tough take to Twitter. "Nada from million/billionaires," Edwards tweeted. "Corp tax loopholes aplenty; only sacrifice from the poor/middle class? Shared sacrifice, balance? Really?"

Edwards, joining most of her colleagues in the Progressive Caucus (where she serves as vice-chair) and the Congressional Black Caucus, refused to vote for the deal. Even after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords arrived on the House floor, for the first time since the Arizona congresswoman was shot earlier this year, to cast a "yes" vote, Edwards refused to budge. She had been among a group of House members who called on President Barack Obama to invoke the 14th amendment to the Constitution, and just go ahead and borrow what was needed to meet the government's obligations despite the debt ceiling imposed by Congress.

Two days later, after the bill was passed into law by the Senate, Edwards appeared on "Democracy Now!" expressing her exasperation with the White House. "I believe in hardball. I’ve argued that publicly," Edwards told host Amy Goodman. "And I think it’s time for the White House to engage in that kind of hardball, because these folks obviously don’t understand negotiation. They don’t understand compromise. They think compromise is a dirty word."

Pop Culture and Hard Politics

When you conjure an image of how a congresswoman looks and acts, it's probably not someone like Donna Edwards. Statuesque, with close-cropped hair and dangling earrings, Edwards has been known to quote the lyrics of a rock song on the House floor, as she did to stake out her position when the GOP threatened to shut down the government in April.

"Mr. Speaker, there have been a lot of quotes on this floor,” Edwards said, “so this one goes out to our young people and our seniors and service members and federal workers who stand to be affected by a government shutdown. It’s a lesson for my Republican colleagues courtesy of the White Stripes."

"You can't take the effect and make it the cause," Edwards quoted (video). "But if you're heading to the grave, you don't blame the hearse."

And then there's the @repdonnaedwards Twitter feed, where she mixes it up with her followers -- no social media staffer microblogging the message-of-the-day for her. Here she is, taking on a tweeter who accused her of sloganeering:

@GenusUnknown actually, not a slogan. It's what I believe. I want my son and his peers 2 have a brighter future. What do u believe, truly?

Edwards, 53, was born to a military family; her father was in the Air Force, so the family moved every 18 months. After graduating from Wake Forest University -- where she was one of only six black women in her class -- she worked for Lockheed Engineering in the Spacelab program at the Goddard Flight Center before heading to law school at Franklin Pierce in 1986.

After clerking for Al Wynn in the Maryland State Senate, Edwards co-founded the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which helped lead the campaign to pass the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. She went on to executive director posts, successively, at the Center for a New Democracy and the progressive Arca Foundation.

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