Examining the New Congress

Posted by on Jan 7, 2021 in Government

The 117th Congress was sworn into session last week, even as several seats still remain empty due to undecided Congressional races in New York, and Iowa. This incoming Congress is unique because it is the most diverse legislature in the nation’s history. Here, btw takes a look at the new face of the U.S. Congress.

A Woman’s Place is in the House . . . and Senate

Two years ago, Democrats declared the “Year of the Woman” when a record number of Democratic women took seats in Congress. This year, it was the Republicans’ turn. A total of 35 Republican women were sworn in this week, thanks in large part to better recruiting, organizing, and fundraising within the political party. While Democrats have almost three times as many women in Congress as Republicans do, 2020 is still a landmark year for Republican women. In fact, Republican Cynthia Lummis is the first woman ever to represent the state of Wyoming in the Senate. Even so, men still hold more than 85 percent of Republican Congressional seats.

Aerial view of Capitol Hill featuring the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.
Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Racial Diversity

While Congress remains predominantly white (as well as predominantly male), both sides of the aisle became more racially and ethnically diverse this session as well. New Mexico’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are entirely women of color for the first time in history. Democrat Marilyn Strickland is the first African American woman to represent the state of Washington in Congress. Republican Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma is the first Iranian American member of Congress. And Democrat Cori Bush is the first African American woman to represent the state of Missouri in Washington. It also appears that Raphael Warnock will become Georgia’s first African American senator, based on projected results from the recently concluded runoff race.

A More Representative Congress

In New York, Democrats Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres are the first two LGBTQ African American and Afro-Latino (respectively) members of Congress. There were twenty-six openly LGBTQ candidates running for Congress in 2020: that is a record number. And six out of the seven LGBTQ incumbent representatives won their races as well, bringing their representation in Congress to an all-time high.

Also, 25-year-old Republican Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina is now the youngest Congressperson, replacing New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Dig Deeper: Visit this House of Representatives website for the full demographic breakdown of the current House of Representatives. How many female representatives will serve in the 117th Congress? How many Hispanic Americans? Asian Americans? African Americans? Native Americans?