Closing The Gap

These are the women making history as the 116th Congress is sworn in

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) along with other members of Congress during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Pelosi will reclaim her former title as Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The 116th Congress makes history with the number of women and African-American and Hispanic members sworn into office Thursday.

A record 127 women will serve in Congress, with 106 Democrats and 21 Republicans — roughly 24 percent of all the seats, according to the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Twenty-five women will serve in the Senate, with 17 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Democrats will take back control of the House, led by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who reclaimed the speaker of the House seat and remains the first and only female House speaker.

The new class will shift the balance of power in Washington, where the federal government is currently on the 13th day of the partial shutdown.

Here's a breakdown of some of the historic firsts sworn into Congress today:

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib: First Muslim women in Congress

Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 17, 2018. 
Emilie Richardson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ilhan Omar made history as the first Muslim congresswoman, along with Rashida Tlaib, the first Somali-American to be elected in Congress.

Tlaib ran unopposed after winning her Democratic primary in Michigan's 13th Congressional District, and Omar will serve in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District. Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, takes over the Michigan seat held for nearly 53 years by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. She became the first Muslim female member of the Michigan state legislature 10 year ago.

Both have pushed a progressive agenda, including Medicare for All health coverage and a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, according to their campaign websites.

Omar took to twitter on the evening before her swearing to recall her arrival to America as a refugee 23 years ago.

"[23] years ago, from a refugee camp in Kenya, my father and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC," Omar posted, along with a picture of her and her father pulling suitcases. "Today, we return to that same airport on the eve of my swearing in as the first Somali-American in Congress."


Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids: First Native American women in Congress

Democrat House candidate Sharice Davids speaks to supporters at a victory party in Olathe, Kan., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
Colin E. Braley | AP

Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American women elected to Congress, after a midterm election in which a historic number of Native Americans won federal, state and local offices. Davids won in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District, and Haaland won in New Mexico's 1st Congressional District.

Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and Haaland is part of the Pueblo of Laguna, according to their campaigns.

Davids is also the first openly LGBT member of Congress from Kansas. She ousted Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder by nearly a double-digit margin.

Marsha Blackburn: Tennessee's first female Senator

Supporters look on as U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks to reporters after she cast her ballot during early voting at the Williamson County Clerk's office, October 31, 2018 in Franklin, Tennessee. 
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn is Tennessee's first female senator, after she won a competitive Senate race against Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

She will also serve as one of the first two GOP women on the powerful Senate Judiciary committee, along with Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, where they will both be involved in judicial nominations and women's issues like the Violence Against Women Act, Politico reports.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Youngest woman ever elected to Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

After defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is now the youngest women ever elected to Congress.

Cortez, a former organizer for Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign and an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, has fueled national attention with an aggressive social media presence and a progressive platform that calls for generational, racial and ideological change.

On Wednesday, Cortez posted an image from Vanity Fair of herself and five other colleagues posed at the Capitol. "We're in the building. Swearing in tomorrow," she wrote.

Jahana Hayes: Connecticut's first black Congresswoman

National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes (C) has a hard time controlling her excitement after taking the stage with U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R), Education Secretary John King (R) and her fellow state teachers of the year during a White House ceremony on May 3, 2016. 
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Democrat Jahana Hayes, the National Teacher of the Year in 2016, is Connecticut's first black woman elected to Congress. She defeated Republican Manny Santos in the state's 5th Congressional District.

In an interview with CNBC in September, Hayes said that frustration over public education inspired her to run for office.

"I'm unhappy with what the government is doing to public education. But I won't spend time being angry and waiting for someone else to make a change," Hayes told CNBC.

Ayanna Pressley: Massachusetts' first black Congresswoman

Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives Ayanna Pressley takes the stage after winning the Democratic primary in Boston, Massachusetts, September 4, 2018. 
Brian Snyder | Reuters

Incoming Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley is the first black Congresswoman to represent the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District after running unopposed. In 2009, she was the first woman of color elected to Boston's city council.

Like other young Democrats swearing into Congress, Pressley champions for Medicare for all and the abolishment of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

On Wednesday, Pressley tweeted a quote from Michelle Obama as she prepared for Thursday's swearing in: "There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish."


Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar: Texas' first Latina Congresswomen

Texas is sending its first Latinas to Congress, after Democrats Veronica Escobar of the 16th Congressional District and Sylvia Garcia of the 29th Congressional district won seats in November.

Even though Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the Texas' population, the state has never elected any Hispanic women to Congress.

Cindy Hyde-Smith: Mississippi's first female Senator

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., attends her swearing-in ceremony in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber after being sworn in on the Senate floor on April 9, 2018. 
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith becomes the first woman elected to Congress in Mississippi after defeating Democrat Mike Espy in a competitive and racially-charged Senate race.

Before her election, Mississippi was one of only two states never to have elected a woman to Congress, the other being Vermont.

Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally: Arizona's first female Senators

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. 
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

A state that had never had any female senators will now have two.

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is the first woman to represent Arizona and the first openly bisexual person ever elected to the Senate. She's also the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Arizona in 30 years.

Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally in the midterm, but McSally is being appointed to late Sen. John McCain's seat.

Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne: First women elected to the House from Iowa

Democrats Cindy Axne of the 3rd Congressional District and Abby Finkenauer of the 1st Congressional District are the first women elected to the House in Iowa. Both defeated male incumbents, Republicans Rod Blum and David Young.


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