The following was originally written for and published by Revolution Now Magazine.
Even amidst a historical shutdown, our government is changing rapidly. Less than two weeks ago, the 116th United States Congress was gaveled to order. Democrats have officially taken control of the House of Representatives. Furthermore, the Congress election resulted in a record number of women and minorities being represented. There are a lot of firsts within this Congress: the first openly bisexual senator, the youngest Congresswoman in history, and the first Muslim elected to a Representative seat, among others. As we enter the next two years of Congress, these are the congresswomen changing the game:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez changed history on January 3rd by becoming the youngest female representative of all time. This New York democrat has not previously held any sort of elected office, and was endorsed by progressive organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Democracy for America. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists for America. Ocasio-Cortez has drawn controversy over proposing a 70% top tax rate to fund a “Green New Deal:” a plan to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
Kyrsten Sinema: This Arizonan Senator is first openly bisexual congressperson. Before joining the Democratic Party in 2004, she was an activist for the Green Party. Sinema unseated a long line of Republican rule in Arizona, becoming the first Democrat senator since Dennis DeConcini in 1988. For her swearing-in ceremony, she chose to be sworn in on a law book instead of the traditional Bible.
Ilhan Omar: In 1995, Omar emigrated from a Kenyan refugee camp with her father and settled in Arlington, Virginia. Now, she is the first Somali American woman elected to Congress and she represents Minnesota. Her parents taught her the importance of democracy at a young age, and she’s been politically active since the age of 14. she became a US citizen in 2000, at the age of 19. On Thursday, Ilhan Omar changed a 181-year old ban on head coverings in the House floor.
Rashida Tlaib: This Democratic representative from Michigan is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, alongside Ilhan Omar. She is also the first Palestinian American woman in Congress. In the 2018 general election, she ran unopposed. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Nancy Pelosi- a Democrat representing California, she is the first woman to hold the position of United States Speaker of the House, previously holding the position from 2007- 2011. She is the highest-ranking elected woman in US history, and is the first speaker to return to the position since Sam Rayburn in 1955.
The number of women serving in both chambers of Congress is now 131. Members of color were elected in more states than ever before. With these historic firsts, politics are reflecting the diversity of the American people more than ever.