A snapshot of the 118th US Congress

First Gen Z congressman and record number of women set to take their seats in the national legislature, though this has been delayed by drawn-out battle over House speaker

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Members of the 118th US Congress had been scheduled to be sworn in this week, setting up a divided legislature for the next two years of President Joe Biden's term — though this has been derailed by a lengthy battle over who will be the next House speaker.

According to the agenda of the first day of Congress, the election of the speaker is to be followed by a speech from the speaker-elect, then the swearing in of members and the adoption of House rules.

Representatives from across the country brought their families to be present for their swearing in, as is tradition.

Representative Rashida Tlaib and her family waited for her swearing-in on Tuesday that never happened. AFP

But that is all currently on hold, as Republicans continue to be divided over their choice for speaker. Some representatives' relatives were spotted snoozing in the gallery while others simply left — and Democrats are growing impatient.

“On vote SIX for speaker of the House and really nothing has changed. There is currently no House of Representatives that can serve the people till we get through this,” tweeted representative-elect Maxwell Frost.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

When they are finally sworn in, the new Congress features what could be seen as the beginning of a generational shift in US politics, with more women than ever serving as well as younger politicians from an array of backgrounds.

Here is a brief look at what the 118th US Congress will look like:

A record number of women

Women will hold a record number of seats in the US legislature, data from the Centre for American Women and Politics show.

The 118th Congress will include 149 women serving, two more than the previous record of 147 set in the 117th Congress. The biggest gains for women come in the House of Representatives, where they will hold 28.5 per cent of seats.

Of the 149 women in Congress, 107 are Democrats. The other 42 are Republicans, a record high.

This year, Vermont is sending its first woman to Congress.

The first Gen Z representative

Maxwell Frost, a congressman-elect from Florida, will be the first member of Gen Z to serve in the US House of Representatives.

At age 25, Mr Frost will be the youngest member of the House. The Democrat campaigned on gun control, climate change and expanded healthcare access.

Mr Frost said last month that he was denied an apartment in Washington because he had accrued debt while running for Congress. The Gen Z congressman-elect told ABC he would have to “couch surf” until his first paycheque from Congress comes in.

A younger and more diverse make-up

Following a series of congresses that widened the age discrepancy between old and young politicians, the new Congress somewhat closes that gap.

Only 5 per cent of members were under the age of 40 last year, but nearly 21 per cent of incoming freshman members of Congress will be under that age, Insider reported.

And 13 women of colour will be welcomed into the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, adding to the lower chamber's growing diversity. In total, 58 women of colour will serve in Congress, including a record number of black and Latina women in the House.

Katie Britt will become the first female senator elected in her home state of Alabama.

A history-making term for Mitch McConnell

The 118th Congress may be slightly younger, but Republicans in the Senate will still be led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The octogenarian was confirmed as his party's leader in the Senate last month, cementing his legacy as the longest-serving party leader in Senate history.

Mr McConnell, 80, has served in Republican leadership in the Senate since 2007.

A freshman representative under investigation

The most controversial representative set to be sworn in is George Santos, a Republican who has faced calls to resign after a series of lies he made about his background came to light.

Mr Santos, a representative-elect from New York, admitted he had lied about his education and work history, and also made misleading statements about his purported Jewish heritage.

Democrats have called on Mr Santos to resign, but the freshman has signalled he intends to serve his two-year term.

Republican leadership, currently embroiled in a speaker-selection fiasco, has almost no power to prevent him from being sworn in.

Mr Santos is currently being investigated by US federal regulators over his finances. Brazilian regulators are also reopening a criminal case against him after records showed he admitted to fraud, The New York Times reported.

Updated: January 06, 2023, 10:52 PM
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