A day of historic firsts in Congress

Congress just got a lot more diverse.

“We’re in the building,” the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wrote on Instagram beneath a portrait of herself and five new colleagues whose elections broke barriers in 2018.

The image is just a snapshot of the new reality in the House of Representatives: After Thursday’s official swearing in ceremony, the most female and most racially diverse Congress in history will begin governing.

Image: US-POLITICS-CONGRESS
Newly-elected Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for the start of the 116th Congress on Jan. 3, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP – Getty Images

More than 100 women were sworn into the House of Representatives — a new record — and many of them are breaking ground when it comes to race and sexuality, too. And House Democrats voted in Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as speaker, the only woman to have ever held the role.

“I am particularly proud to be the woman Speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks the 100th year of women winning the right to vote. And that we all have the ability and the privilege to serve with more than 100 women in the House of Representatives — the highest number in history,” Pelosi said on Thursday.

In the Senate, 10 newly elected senators were sworn in on Thursday, including five women. A sixth woman, former Republican Rep. Martha McSally who was appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s now-empty Senate seat, joins them.

ayannapressley“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” –

Here are some of the historic firsts.

FIRST INDIGENOUS WOMEN IN CONGRESS

New Mexico’s Deb Haaland and Kansas’ Sharice Davids, both Democrats, are the nation’s first Native American women to serve in Congress.

Haaland was sworn in wearing a traditional Pueblo dress and moccasins, a spokesman told NBC News.

Her family, also dressed in traditional attire, joined her in the Capitol on Thursday.

Deb Haaland will be sworn in wearing her traditional Pueblo clothing. She is here with her family, including her mother.

FIRST MUSLIM WOMEN IN CONGRESS — ONE THE FIRST SOMALI-AMERICAN, ANOTHER THE FIRST PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN WOMAN

Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib are the nation’s first Muslim women in Congress.

Landing in a Washington airport on Wednesday, Omar noted in a tweet it had been 23 years since she’d arrived in that same airport as a child and refugee.

23 years ago, from a refugee camp in Kenya, my father and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC. Today, we return to that same airport on the eve of my swearing in as the first Somali-American in Congress.

Omar is also the first hijab-wearing member, the first former refugee to be elected to Congress, and the first Somali-American member to serve in Congress.

Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American congresswoman to serve, and was sworn in wearing a traditional Palestinian gown called a thobe. Her child was captured in a photo doing doing a dabbing pose.

Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., with her kids during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 3, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

IOWA SENDS WOMEN TO THE HOUSE FOR FIRST TIME; TEXAS SENDS FIRST LATINAS

Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne are the first women elected to the House by Iowa voters. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, both Democrats, are the first Hispanic women ever elected to federal office by Texas voters.

Escobar and Garcia are Mexican American, while Florida Democratic Rep.-elect Debbie Mucarsel-Powell makes history as the first member of Congress of South American descent.

I call this one: “A retired union pipefitter welder and retired public school secretary walk into their youngest daughter’s Congressional office” … My first visitors. – Abby Finkenauer

THE MAJORITY OF HOUSE DEMOCRATS ARE NEW TO RUNNING THE SHOW

Roll Call reported in November that only some of the House Democrats who will be seated today have ever experienced life in the majority.

STATES’ FIRST MINORITY REPRESENTATIVES

Democrat Ayanna Pressley is Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman and Democrat Jahana Hayes is Connecticut’s first black congresswoman. Andy Kim will be New Jersey’s first Asian-American member, too. Democrat Joe Neguse was sworn in as Colorado’s first African-American congressman, according to the Coloradoan.

RECORD NUMBER OF ASIAN AMERICANS AND PACIFIC ISLANDERS IN CONGRESS

The swearing-in of Kim, Democrat TJ Cox in California and Michael San Nicolas, a non-voting representative for Guam, in the House brings the total number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Congress to 20, a new high, according to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

FIRSTS FOR LGBTQ REPRESENTATION

Chris Pappas is the first openly gay member from New Hampshire, while Angie Craig is the first openly gay member elected from Minnesota. Katie Hill is the first openly bisexual congresswoman from California. Davids, one of the first two Native American women elected, is also the first gay congresswoman from Kansas.

Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was sworn in on Thursday as the first ever bisexual senator.

Today is the day. Thanks to everyone who has made this moment possible. It’s time to get to work for #NH01. Follow @RepPappasNH for news and updates from the official side. #nhpolitics -Chris Pappas

LARGEST CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS

The 116th Congress will have the largest Congressional Black Caucus yet, after 55 members were ceremonially sworn-in on Thursday morning ahead of the official House swearing-in ceremony.

This is the first time in the caucus’ 48-year history that it has had more than 50 members, according to caucus chair Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. The caucus includes elected officials from both the House and Senate.

LARGEST CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS

The 116th Congress has its largest Hispanic Caucus, too, with 37 members in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this year, The Hill reported. The caucus includes elected officials from both the House and Senate.

CORRECTION (Jan. 3, 3:50 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misidentified the first woman elected to Congress from Iowa. It was Joni Ernst, who was elected to the Senate in 2014. It was not Abby Finkenauer or Cindy Axne, who were sworn in as representatives today as the first women from Iowa in the House.