The 113th Congress was sworn into office on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, just two days after the previous Congress finished a marathon negotiation to pass a bill to avert the fiscal cliff.
Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as Senate president, administered the oath of office to freshmen and reelected members of the Senate. In November's election Democrats expanded their majority to lead by 53 seats to the Republicans' 45, with two independents caucusing with the Democrats.
There were twelve newly elected senators: eight Democrats, three Republicans and one independent.
The new Senate will include 20 women, the most to ever serve at one time. Democratic freshman include the first Asian-American woman and the first openly gay person ever to serve.
Senate Republican freshmen include Ted Cruz of Texas who becomes the third senator of Hispanic heritage and Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is now the Senate's only black member, and the first black Republican senator since 1979.
The House of Representatives now has a record number of women also, with 81 in total.
"If you have come here humbled by the opportunity to serve, if you have come here to be the determined voice of the people, if you have come here to carry the standard of leadership demanded not by our constituents, but by the times, then you have come to the right place," - Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.
1. What does Congress do?
2. What are the two chambers of Congress?
3. What is the difference between the two?
1. Is it important for the people in Congress to come from diverse backgrounds? Why or why not?
2. Do you think Congress has been doing a good job of addressing the needs of the country? Why or why not?
3. Who are your senators and representatives? Are they Republicans or Democrats? Male or female? What do they say about your state and your district?