Incoming Congress looks more like America

The 117th Congress will be the most diverse group of lawmakers ever to chart the nation’s course when it meets in January after women and nonwhite candidates made gains in the November elections.

At least 121 women will be among the 441 members and delegates to the House of Representatives, with several races yet to be formally declared. And women will occupy 26 seats in the Senate — at least until the first woman who will serve as vice president, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), resigns her seat.

White men still hold a majority of seats in Congress, but the next session will include 59 Black Americans, the highest number on record and up five from the previous Congress. Eighteen members of Asian descent and 45 who identify as Hispanic or Latino will serve, along with five Native Americans and one Native Hawaiian.

The new Congress will include the first three Korean American women ever to serve in Congress, Reps.-elect Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), Young Kim (R-Calif.) and Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.).

The number of veterans who will serve in the new Congress continues a decades-long downward trend. Just under 90 members of the new Congress will have served in the nation’s military, the lowest figure in modern memory. In the 1970s, at least 70 percent of lawmakers had served in the military, according to the Pew Research Center; today, that number is under 20 percent.

Congress remains a bastion for older Americans. The average member of the House of Representatives is 57.7 years old, while the average senator is 63.7 years of age. There is more than half a century between the nation’s oldest lawmakers — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) — and the youngest, Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.).

The oldest Senate delegation will come from Vermont, where Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) is 80 and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is 79. The youngest hails from New Mexico, where Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) and Sen.-elect Ben Ray Luján (D) are both just under 50.

Using Pew’s definition of generations, which pegs the first millennials as those born in 1981, Cawthorn is among 31 members of the millennial generation who will serve in Congress. There are 160 members of Generation X in Congress, 296 baby boomers and 39 members of the silent generation still serving.

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Grassley Dianne Feinstein Don Young Martin Heinrich New Members Guide 2020 Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby
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