January 29, 2023


The freshman class of the 118th Congress, which was waiting to be sworn in amid the chaos surrounding the vote for House speaker, has already made history on a number of fronts. They are the youngest class in recent history, with an average age below 50 – including the first representative from Generation Z. Other firsts include Democrat Becca Balint, who is the first female representative from Vermont, and Democrat Summer Lee, the first Black congresswoman to represent Pennsylvania. Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon have their first-ever Latina representatives. 

This Congress is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats – with Republicans holding a narrow 222-212 majority in the House, while Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate. New members may have to work extra hard to have any impact, given the deep divisions both between and within the parties, says Mark Harkins of Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute.

Why We Wrote This

The 118th Congress will have to work around divided control between chambers, and is already showing internal party rifts. But the Hill’s fresh-faced newcomers are just eager to get sworn in and get started.

Still, some are holding out hope for bipartisanship.

“We were on the House floor, I was in the second row, and I literally reached ‘across the aisle’ to meet Congressman-elect Molinaro,” says Democrat Wiley Nickel of North Carolina, referring to Republican Marc Molinaro from New York. “That was one of my favorite moments.”

After months, or in some cases years, of planning, fundraising, and campaigning, 74 brand-new members of Congress are beginning their first terms. And if the chaos surrounding the House speaker vote today was any indication, they may be in for a bumpy ride.

The freshman class of the 118th Congress, which was waiting to be sworn in amid the speakership drama, has already made history on a number of fronts. They hail from more than 30 states and represent urban, suburban, and rural areas. They are the youngest class in recent history, with an average age below 50 – including the first representative from Generation Z, Florida Democrat Maxwell Frost. The number of women in the House remains roughly the same, but several newcomers mark firsts: Democrat Becca Balint is the first female representative from Vermont; Democrat Summer Lee is the first Black congresswoman to represent Pennsylvania; and Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon have their first-ever Latina representatives. 

Following a midterm election where Democrats performed better than expected, the 118th Congress is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats – with Republicans holding a narrow 222-212 majority in the House, while Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate. New members may have to work extra hard to have any impact in what could easily be a divisive and gridlocked term.

Why We Wrote This

The 118th Congress will have to work around divided control between chambers, and is already showing internal party rifts. But the Hill’s fresh-faced newcomers are just eager to get sworn in and get started.

That’s especially true when compared with the previous Congress, which was “one of the most active in the past century,” says Mark Harkins, who worked on Capitol Hill for almost two decades before joining Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute. The 117th Congress also had exceedingly narrow margins, but Democrats controlled both chambers, as well as the White House, making it easier to move legislation.

The incoming 118th Congress will likely “pale in comparison,” Mr. Harkins predicts, given the split not only between chambers, but also within the parties. The GOP’s internal rifts were on display throughout the day, as members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus refused to vote for their own party’s speaker nominee, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. After three ballots, Mr. McCarthy had yet to secure a majority Tuesday evening – the first time in 100 years the vote for speaker had gone beyond the first ballot. With every potential vote critical, new members immediately found themselves being courted.





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