Lawmakers gathered Thursday on Capitol Hill for the start of the 116th Congress, officially kicking off a two-year period of divided government in Washington.
With the unusually large freshman class — the result in part of a wave of retirements — comes a change in party leadership in the House of Representatives, as well as generational and demographic shifts. While these new lawmakers will inherit last year’s problems, including the partial government shutdown, they will not look like past sessions of Congress.
Here’s how this year’s freshman congressional class compares to those before it.
- Bluer: Democrats in November won a decisive majority in the House of Representatives, winning 40 seats to claim a 235-199* majority in the new session. Republicans still hold the Senate with a 53-47**margin, triggering a divided government in Washington for the next two years.
- Younger: This freshman group is 10 years younger, on average, than the outgoing Congress. Twenty-five of these new members are millennials under the age of 40. Two incoming Democratic representatives — Alexandria Ocasio Cortez from New York and Abby Finkenauer from Iowa — were elected before turning 30.
- More women: 43 of the incoming members of Congress are women, with 37 new female representatives and 6 female senators. The election brings the total number of women in the Senate to 25, which is a record.
- More people of color: The new Congress could be the most racially diverse ever, with at least 23 new people of color. Many of these candidates are firsts in their states, including Andy Kim, New Jersey’s first Asian American representative, and Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress.
- More veterans: Both parties are welcoming members who served in the military, adding seven Democratic veterans and twelve Republican veterans. The freshman class also includes former counterterrorism advisers and two CIA officers.
* North Carolina’s ninth congressional district seat remains in dispute.
** Includes the two Independent senators who caucus with Democrats.