The most diverse Congress in US history is sworn in as Democrats take the reins of power in the House

Bill Clark/Getty ImagesHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks into the Capitol with her grandchildren.
  • Democrats swept into power in the House on Thursday after eight years in the minority, electing former House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as speaker.
  • The incoming House of Representatives has more women, people of colour, openly LGBT members, and millennials than any other in history.

Democrats swept into power in the House on Thursday after eight years in the minority, electing former House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as speaker, who will preside over the most-diverse Congress in US history.

Ten new senators – three Democrats and seven Republicans – and 101 new House members, 67 of them Democrats, were sworn in.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the newly-elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who has once again made history as the first woman to ever be House speaker, which is second in line to the presidency, after the vice president.

Jeffries praised Pelosi as “a sophisticated strategist, a legendary legislator, a voice for the voiceless, a defender of the disenfranchised, a powerful, profound, prophetic, principled public servant.”

“House Democrats are down with N.D.P.,” the Brooklyn Democrat joked, using Pelosi’s initials to refer to a song by the hip-hop trio Naughty By Nature.

Roll-call for the speaker vote began just before 1 p.m. and ended an hour later when Pelosi was elected with 220 votes. Each member was called on to name their choice for speaker and more than a dozen Democrats either chose a different candidate or did not vote. Eleven of those defectors were newly-elected Democrats.

“I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan, and unifying,” Pelosi said during her speech on the House floor on Thursday afternoon.

The 116th Congress is the most diverse in US history, even as 90% of House Republicans will be white men.

The majority – 52% – of incoming Democratic freshmen are women, compared to just 4.5% of incoming Republicans. Overall, a record 103 women were elected to serve in the House – 22% more than those who served in the 115th House.

Another five new women senators and 10 incumbent female senators, 131 women will serve in the 116th Congress.

And 34% of incoming House Democrats identify as people of colour, compared to just 2% of newly-elected Republicans.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, takes a selfie with other members prior to the start of the 116th Congress on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty ImagesRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, takes a selfie with other members prior to the start of the 116th Congress on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol.

Congress will also be younger. The average age of the 116th Congress is 47 – a 10-year drop from the 115th Congress.

Pelosi celebrated that diversity in her speech, pointing out that this Congress will serve during the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage.

The Capitol was full of lawmakers’ family members, tourists, and reporters.

Grace Panetta contributed to this report.

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