Welcome to the Most Diverse Congress Yet

By Chris Hoenig

Congress is still predominantly white and predominantly male, but the 114th Congress, sworn in on Tuesday, is the most diverse ever.

There are 535 elected seats on Capitol Hill—435 in the House, 100 in Senate.

In the House, three women are making history: New Jersey Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman is the first Black woman to represent the Garden State in Washington. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, is the youngest woman ever elected to the House, at just 30 years old. And 38-year-old Mia Love, representing Utah, is the first Black female Republican ever in Congress.

For the next two years, a total of 84 women will serve in the House—barring any surprise retirements, resignations or special appointees or elections—which is up from 80 in the last Congress.

Also taking the oath in the House are 44 Black Congressmen and Congresswomen, including Love. Freshman Will Hurd, a Black Republican from Texas, will also take his seat as chairman of the Information Technology subcommittee, a rare appointment for a first-term delegate.

A total of 90 House delegates come from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, including 34 Latinos (10 of whom are Republican), 10 Asians and two American Indians (both of whom are Republicans representing Oklahoma).

Meanwhile, in the Senate, the election victories by Republicans Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia) mean that there will once again be 20 women serving in the upper chamber, after Democrats Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu lost their reelection bids. Two incumbent women, Republican Susan Collins (Maine) and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), were reelected.

Racial diversity remains hard to come by in the Senate, where only 6 percent of the delegates are nonwhite. Republican Tim Scott (South Carolina) and Democrat Cory Booker (New Jersey) are the only two Black Senators, while Republicans Marco Rubio (Florida) and Ted Cruz (Texas) and Democrat Robert Menendez (New Jersey) are the lone Latinos in the Senate. Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono is the only Asian in the Senate.

Overall, a record 104 women—but still only about 20 percent of the total delegation—will serve in the 114th Congress. Of the 96 underrepresented delegates (about 18 percent of Congress), 46 are Black, 37 are Latino, 11 are Asian and two are American Indians.

The GOP has a majority in both Congressional chambers: a 246-188 advantage in the House (one seat is vacant following the resignation of New York Republican Michael Grimm, who pleaded guilty recently to felony tax evasion), and a 54-44 edge in the Senate (there are two Independent Senators, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both of whom caucus with the Democrats).

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