The Washington Post

New Congress is most diverse in history

The new Congress that takes office at noon will have the distinction of being the most diverse yet to serve.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) (Laura Segall/For the Washington Post)

That's not to say there won't still be a lot of older white guys in the 113th Congress. The nation's legislative body will still remain less racially diverse than the nation as a whole and men still dramatically outnumber women.

Still, the new crop of House and Senate members break a number of key barriers. For the first time, white men will be in the minority of the 200-member Democratic caucus in the House. There will be 44 African-Americans in the House and one in the Senate: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the first black Senator since 1979. Two of the Senate's three Hispanics will be Republicans (Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas). Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey in a Democrat.

After a campaign season filled with discussions of women's issues, women will make historic strides in the new Congress. There will now be 20 female senators, including newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Four states will be represented by two female senators. Women have made gains in the House as well.

The 113th Senator will feature the nation's first openly gay senator--Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.). And the first open bisexual was elected to the House--Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

And this Congress will break religious barriers as well. The Senate will feature its first Buddhist, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). And the first Hindu will join the House, Sen. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Gabbard said the new faces will make Congress more like what she saw during deployments to Iraq with the Army National Guard.

"One thing I appreciated and was inspired by during my time in service was the fact that we had so much diversity in the ranks," she said Thursday, as she prepared to take the oath of office. "I think now with this Congress, you're starting to see Congress catching up with the rest of the county, representing the diversity that exists in communities all across the country."

To explore the new Congress, check out our interactive guide to the freshmen

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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