Hawai‘i Democratic senator Mazie Hirono.
(Photo/Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via AP Images)
Democratic senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. (AP
Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California. (AP
CONGRESSWOMEN OF COLOR. While the 115th Congress will include a
record number of minority women, congress remains overwhelmingly white,
male, and middle-aged. In the senate, Democrats Kamala Harris of
California, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Catherine Cortez Masto of
Nevada (not pictured) are among a record 21 women, up from 20, out of
100 senators. Harris and Duckworth join Hawai‘i Democratic senator Mazie
Hirono (left) to form the senate’s largest ever Asian-American
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #22 (November 21, 2016), page 8.
New congress: Minorities gain but still overwhelmingly
By Matthew Daly
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Just like college freshmen, newly elected members of the
House of Representatives descended on Washington for orientation, a
class photo, and a lottery to determine their offices for the next two
The new congress includes the first Latina senator, three house
members moving across the capitol to the senate, and a few former
lawmakers who seized their old jobs back.
While the 115th Congress will include a record number of minority
women, congress will remain overwhelmingly white, male, and middle-aged.
At the first day of orientation, Republicans expressed excitement
about winning the White House while Democrats struck a conciliatory
Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat who will represent a South Texas
district, said freshmen members of his party will start the new session
in January "having a clear view of the reality we’re dealing with and
trying to reach across the aisle and finding common ground."
A look at the new congress:
In the senate, Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Kamala
Harris of California, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois are among a record
21 women, up from 20, out of 100 senators.
Cortez Masto will be the first Latina senator, while Harris and
Duckworth will join Hawai‘i Democratic senator Mazie Hirono to form the
senate’s largest ever Asian-American contingent.
Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, is just
the second black woman elected to the senate and the first with South
The house will welcome its first Vietnamese-American and
Indian-American women: Democrats Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Pramila
Jayapal of Washington state.
Overall, the number of minority women in congress will increase to 33
in the house from 27 and stand at four in the senate.
Six new senators join the ranks — a seventh will be chosen next month
in Louisiana’s runoff.
Harris, 52, a former prosecutor, currently serves as California’s
Duckworth, a two-term house member, is a veteran of the Iraq War,
where as an Army pilot, she lost both legs when her helicopter was hit
by a grenade. Duckworth, 48, was born in Thailand, to an American father
and Thai-Chinese mother.
A former two-term Nevada attorney general, Cortez Masto, 52, also has
worked as a prosecutor and chief of staff to former Nevada governor Bob
Miller. Her father is of Mexican descent and her mother is of Italian
Republican representative Todd Young of Indiana is a three-term
congressman and former Capitol Hill aide. Democratic representative
Chris Van Hollen of Maryland will replace Barbara Mikulski, who is
retiring after 30 years in the senate. A key lieutenant to House
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Van Hollen, 57, has focused on budget
issues and foreign policy.
New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, a two-term governor, defeated freshman
Republican senator Kelly Ayotte in the nation’s closest senate race.
Women ascend in senate, decline in house
A total of 104 women will serve in the next congress, the same as in
the current congress and 19.4 percent of the total number of lawmakers.
Twenty-one women will serve in the senate while 83 women will serve in
the house, a drop of one from the current 84.
In addition to Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the presidential race,
women saw setbacks in congress. Maryland’s 10-member congressional
delegation reverted to all-male, while Pennsylvania voters rejected
Democrat Katie McGinty’s bid to become the first woman in the state
elected to the senate.
Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester will be Delaware’s first woman and
first African American in congress. Only Mississippi and Vermont have
never sent a woman to either chamber of congress.
African Americans gain
A record 48 African Americans will serve in congress, including 46 in
the house, an overall increase of two. Eighteen black women serve in
congress, including Republican representative Mia Love of Utah. Love is
one of three black Republicans, along with South Carolina senator Tim
Scott and Texas representative Will Hurd.
Hispanics, Asian Americans gain
A record 39 Hispanics will serve in congress, including 35 in the
house. Seven Hispanic freshmen were elected to the house, all Democrats.
Ruben Kihuen will be the first Latino to represent Nevada in the house,
while New York’s Adriano Espaillat will be the first Dominican American.
Fifteen Asian Americans will serve in congress, including 12 in the
house. That’s up from 10 in the current congress.
Three former house Democrats won their old seats back: Colleen
Hanabusa of Hawai‘i, Brad Schneider of Illinois, and Carol Shea-Porter
of New Hampshire.
Attending her first day of orientation, Hanabusa said her experience
will help her as Democrats try to wield influence in the minority.
"Like everything else, it’s whether we’re going to be able to
maintain relationships more than anything," she said.
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