By Li Zhou
A record-breaking number of women were sworn into the House and Senate on Thursday.
Thursday’s House speaker vote and opening of the 116th Congress set up a striking visual moment in the lower chamber: On Democrats’ side of the aisle, a historically diverse class of women and people of color were clad in bright outfits as they were sworn in, while on the Republican side, a relatively homogeneous group of mostly white men wore nearly identical dark suits as they took their oaths.
The sharp contrast in the House served to underline the stark differences between how the respective parties have approached promoting women and candidates of color. While Democrats have made it their mission to diversify the kinds of candidates and leaders they elect, Republicans have historically shied away from doing so for fear of being associated with identity politics.
This distinction was especially apparent during the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats saw a groundbreaking number of women help the party retake control of the House, while Republicans actually saw declines in their number of women representatives. (The number of GOP women did grow in the Senate, however.)
If the House’s first vote was any indication, Thursday marks the beginning of a new Congress unlike any that’s ever come before. It kicks off a term that’s expected to look very, very different … in a good way.
A historically diverse class of Democratic lawmakers were sworn into the House on Thursday, with more than 100 women elected to the congressional body.
Meanwhile, Republicans saw their ranks of women decline in the House after the recent midterm elections … and it showed.
Many lawmakers were accompanied by their children and grandchildren, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, whose kids didn’t hold back when she cast her vote for speaker.
The Democratic side of the chamber was filled with bright outfits — including some that offered their own underlying meanings. The Republican side had a lot of suits.
Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saw some members of their party peel off during their votes, but these detractors weren’t enough to prevent them from winning their respective positions
Pelosi is the first and only woman to hold the role of speaker of the House. She’s also one of the few people to retake the gavel for a second time.
The Democratic freshman class has a lot of firsts, including the youngest women ever elected to Congress, the first African-American woman Connecticut has ever elected to Congress, and the first Native American woman elected to Congress.
And to top it all off, there were lots and lots of babies.
Read more here: The historic new Congress, in 17 pictures