Introducing Our Nation’s New Leaders

Dear Rich Lifer,

The 117th Congress was sworn in this past Sunday, January 3 2021, ushering in a new group of leaders that are more diverse than ever before.

There is now a record-setting number of women, Black and Latino members, and members who identify as LGBTQ.

The Constitution called for Congress to convene on January 3 at noon ET for the official swearing in of both newly elected and returning members. The ceremonious, yet Covid cautious, occasion also included a vote for House Speaker, a role which Nancy Pelosi won with 116 votes, narrowly defeating Representative Kevin McCarthy who received 109 votes.

While House Democrats were able to keep control of the House in the November elections, they will now have a smaller majority as they lost multiple incumbent seats.

Currently, Democrats hold 222 seats in the House compared to Republicans’ 211 seats — an 11 seat majority. Heading into election day this past November, Democrats held a 35-seat majority.

There are also two vacant seats in the House — Louisiana’s 5th District due to the death of Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow and New York’s 22nd District due to legal challenges.

Because of the shrunken majority, Speaker Pelosi will have her work cut out for her in order to keep her caucus united and push through President-Elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

Many members are aware that it will be harder to find a consensus on legislative issues such as a coronavirus package, an infrastructure bill or spending bills with just a handful of votes to spare.

Democrats have had a comfortable majority the past two years of Speaker Pelosi’s rein, meaning they could afford to lose votes among their own ranks. However, this is no longer the case.

There is now an increased pressure to find compromises between progressive and moderate Democrats and work across the aisle with Minority Leader McCarthy and the Republicans.

Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, stated, “We are going to have to push hard to show that everyone’s view is legitimate, but the test will be to try to not allow some voices to keep us from moving anything because it’s not the biggest and boldest thing they can think of. That’s going to be hard.”

As of the time of this writing, Democrats have seemingly secured the majority of the Senate with Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris casting the final vote.

We will have to keep our eye on that election, which is ongoing, but in the meantime we can take a closer look at some of the incoming class of freshmen in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Freshmen to Watch

There will be 60 freshmen in the 117th Congress. Seventeen of those seats flipped during the 2020 general election, with Republicans picking up 14 seats and Democrats picking up three.

Many newly elected officials gained national attention, even before their official swearing into congress.

Progressive Democrats took down incumbents in a few closely watched primary races, including Jamaal Bowman, the former middle school principal, who defeated the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel.

Cori Bush of Missouri’s 1st District also defeated incumbent Lacy Clay, making her the first Black congresswoman from Missouri. Both Bush and Bowman represent the growing wave of Black progressive leaders in Congress.

Other Black New Yorker’s made history with their elections. Both Ritchie Torres (15th District) and Mondaire Jones (17th District) became the first Black men who identify as gay to be elected to Congress.

Other record-breaking Congressmen include Madison Cawthorn (North Carolina’s 11th District) who became the youngest Republican elected to the House and the second youngest House member in modern history. Cawthorn is only 25 years old and is partly paralyzed due to a 2014 car accident.

One freshman with a national profile is Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who became widely known for repeated incendiary rhetoric and ties to the QAnon conspiracy theories. Trump has called her a “future Republican star.”

Three Korean American women made history with their elections as well. Marilyn Strickland (Democrat, Washington’s 10th District), Michelle Steel (Republican, California’s 48th District), and Young Kim (Republican, California’s 39th District) were the first three Koren American women elected to Congress. Representative Strickland was also the first Black member of Congress from Washington.

Republican Yvette Herrell (New Mexico’s 2nd District) also became the first Native American Republican woman elected to Congress.

Overall, the 117th Congress will see a record number of women in the House, including a record number of Republican women. In fact, 10 of the Republicans who flipped Democratic seats were women.

Additionally, the 117th Congress will have the largest number of Black members in the history of the House and in the history of Congress. The 58 representatives are a new record for the House, while the record-high three in the Senate remains the same, at least until Harris resigns to become vice president.

According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the 44 Latino members elected to Congress will be the most ever.

The LGBTQ Victory Institute reports that this will be the most people who identify as LGBTQ to ever serve in the House and the most to ever serve in Congress.

It’s clear that the elections this year offered a glimpse into a more inclusive future with the most diverse group of representatives ever to represent the American people.

What will they do with their new positions of power? Only time will tell, but we will be watching closely to see how this new, historic Congress plays out.

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team

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