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Record number of women to serve in the next Congress

Record number of women to serve in the next Congress

As the votes for many congressional races across the country are continuing to be counted, enough female candidates have secured victories this week for there to already be a record number of women slated to serve in the next Congress.

According to figures released Thursday afternoon by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), which tracks women’s political participation in the U.S., at least 131 women, made up of 100 Democrats and 31 Republicans, will serve in the 117th Congress.

The number is a small jump from the record high set by the current Congress, which began with 127 women at the start of 2019.

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So far, CAWP says, 106 female candidates have won their House races, including 83 Democrats and 23 Republicans, surpassing the record 102 women who were elected to the House for the current Congress. 

That number could change soon, however, since the political unit says 29 races in which female House nominees, including 19 Democrats and 10 Republicans, are competing have not yet been called. 

The record for Democratic women elected to the House stands at 89 from 2019, the political unit says, meaning at least seven more female Democratic House nominees need to be elected this month to set a new high. The record for Republican women elected to the House stands at 25 from 2006, according to CAWP. So, just three more female Republican House nominees need to win for a new record to be made.

This year saw a record 583 women run for the House, up more than 20 percent from the high set in 2018, when 476 women ran. Though the record set two years back was largely due to significant gains made by Democratic women, this year, the spike in House candidacies was partly driven by Republican women, while Democratic women maintained their high numbers from 2018. 

More than 226 Republican women ran for the House in 2020, which CAWP said earlier this year was a 74.6 percent jump from their last record.

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Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, remarked on the gains made by Republican women this year in a statement.

“We’ve been hearing for years now how Democrats are the party of women, but this election has proven that’s not true. We’ve got at least 12 new Republican women headed to Washington next year, and we are hopeful to add even more once the final vote is tallied,” he said.

“I’m excited to have all of these talented and impressive women joining our Conference and would love to have their diverse experiences and perspectives on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” he added.

The new gains also come as parts of the country have seen historic wins for female House candidates, including Cori Bush (D), who this week became the first Black woman to win election to Congress in Missouri, and Marilyn Strickland (D), who became the first Black woman to win election to Congress in Washington state.

Strickland will also be the first Korean American woman to serve in Congress.

It's not yet clear whether this year's races will see a record number of women of color elected to the House. According to figures released by CAWP on Wednesday, at least 43 women of color, including 42 Democrats and one Republican, are slated to serve in the House next year. The current record, which was set in 2019, was 44.

However, according to The Guardian, a record number of Native American women have already been elected to Congress this year, with the re-elections of Reps. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation | House passes major public lands package | Biden administration won't defend Trump-era relaxation of bird protections Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland MORE (D-N.M.) and Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsWhen infrastructure fails Six ways to visualize a divided America Lawmakers wager barbecue, sweets and crab claws ahead of Super Bowl MORE (D-Kansas), as well as the election of Yvette Herrell (R) to House in New Mexico. 

As for the Senate, CAWP said only 25 women are set to serve in the chamber next year as of Thursday afternoon — that includes 17 Democrats and 8 Republicans. But that number could also drop, pending Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBrown vows Democrats will 'find a way' to raise minimum wage Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren MORE’s (D-Calif.) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden offers support to union organizing efforts Senate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits MORE’s outcome in the election.

The record for women to serve in the Senate was set during the current Congress, with 26 women, according to CAWP. 

Debbie Walsh, director of the political unit, said in a statement on Thursday that women's political representation in the country is “on a long, if occasionally fitful, upward trajectory.”

“With all that progress, at best women will still make up less than 30 percent of Congress in 2021,” Walsh continued. “The 2018 cycle was a story of Democratic success; this year we are seeing significant gains on the Republican side.”

“Advances for women must come from both sides of the aisle if women are to achieve equal representation in Congress,” she added.