A day of historic firsts in Congress

A day of historic firsts in Congress

News Staff

Congress just got a lot more diverse.

“We’re in the building,” the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wrote on Instagram beneath a portrait of herself and five new colleagues whose elections broke barriers in 2018.

The image is just a snapshot of the new reality in the House of Representatives: After Thursday’s official swearing in ceremony, the most female and most racially diverse Congress in history will begin governing.

More than 100 women will be sworn into the House of Representatives — a new record — and many of them are breaking ground when it comes to race and sexuality, too.

In the Senate, 10 newly elected senators were sworn in on Thursday, including five women. A sixth women, former Republican Rep. Martha McSally who was appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s now-empty Senate seat, joins them.

Here are some of the historic firsts.

FIRST INDIGENOUS WOMEN IN CONGRESS

New Mexico’s Deb Haaland and Kansas’ Sharice Davids, both Democrats, are the nation’s first Native American women in Congress.

Haaland was sworn in wearing a traditional Pueblo dress and moccasins, a spokesman told NBC News.

Her family, also dressed in traditional attire, joined her in the Capitol on Thursday.

FIRST MUSLIM WOMEN IN CONGRESS — ONE THE FIRST SOMALI-AMERICAN, ANOTHER THE FIRST PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN WOMAN

Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib are the nation’s first Muslim women in Congress.

Landing in a Washington airport on Wednesday, Omar noted in a tweet it had been 23 years since she’d arrived in that same airport as a child and refugee.

Omar is also the first hijab-wearing member, the first former refugee to be elected to Congress, and the first Somali-American member to serve in Congress.

Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American congresswoman to serve, and she said last month she’d be sworn in wearing a traditional Palestinian gown.

IOWA SENDS WOMEN TO WASHINGTON FOR FIRST TIME; TEXAS SENDS FIRST LATINAS

Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne are the first women ever elected to Congress by Iowa voters. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, both Democrats, are the first Hispanic women ever elected to federal office by Texas voters.

Escobar and Garcia are Mexican American, while Florida Democratic Rep.-elect Debbie Mucarsel-Powell makes history as the first member of Congress of South American descent.

THE MAJORITY OF HOUSE DEMOCRATS ARE NEW TO RUNNING THE SHOW

Roll Call reported in November that only some of the House Democrats who will be seated today have ever experienced life in the majority.

STATES’ FIRST MINORITY REPRESENTATIVES

Democrat Ayanna Pressley is Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman and Democrat Jahana Hayes is Connecticut’s first black congresswoman. Andy Kim will be New Jersey’s first Asian-American member, too.

FIRSTS FOR LGBTQ REPRESENTATION

Chris Pappas will be the first openly gay member from New Hampshire, while Angie Craig is the first openly gay member elected from Minnesota. Katie Hill is the first openly bisexual congresswoman from California. Davids, one of the first two Native American women elected, is also the first gay congresswoman from Kansas.

Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was sworn in on Thursday as the first ever bisexual senator.

LARGEST CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS

The 116th Congress will have the largest Congressional Black Caucus yet, after 55 members were ceremonially sworn-in on Thursday morning ahead of the official House swearing-in ceremony.

This is the first time in the caucus’ 48-year history that it has had more than 50 members, according to caucus chair Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. The caucus includes elected officials from both the House and Senate.

LARGEST CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS

The 116th Congress has its largest Hispanic Caucus, too, with 37 members in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this year, The Hill reported. The caucus includes elected officials from both the House and Senate.