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Women make history as 116th Congress sworn in

Posted at 7:21 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-03 21:21:22-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 116th class of Congress is like none you've ever seen before after a record number of women joined the ranks.

Gina Woodall from ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies said she expects this wave of women will leave a wake of change.

"They tend to be more workhorses and not show horses," said Woodall. "And I think when you diversify who our representatives are in Congress, you are going to get different policy."

Making Arizona history, Kyrsten Sinema was sworn in as the senior Arizona Senator. Her predecessor, Jeff Flake, stood behind her. He told ABC15 in a recent interview he planned to be there to witness history.

"It's great to have two women sworn in, " Flake said. "It's the first time Arizona's had that in the Senate."

The second woman Senator is Martha McSally. The former fighter pilot lost a nail biter to Sinema in November, but was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey to fill the late Senator John McCain's seat which was temporarily filled by Jon Kyl. She'll have to run again in 2020 to hang on to the job.

There were other firsts for women in Washington. The youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez from New York. The first Muslim women in Congress, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. And it's not a first for Nancy Pelosi, but a second. Flanked by her grandchildren, Pelosi walked in and reclaimed the speakership while Democrats took back the House majority. She is, however, the first and only female speaker of the House ever.

Woodall credits the 'Me Too' movement and the Trump presidency for the increase in engagement from women. A record 127 women will serve in Congress. 25 will serve in the Senate. However, women still make up less than a quarter of the two chambers combined.

In the Senate GOP, only 8 members are women.

"There's a lot of work to be done, particularly within the Republican party, the Democratic party has been quite successful," Woodall said. "But I think the Republican party needs to think deeply about how they're going recruit more women into office and win."

It appears the new Congress was already catering to its new members. According to NPR, it opened a new childcare facility exclusively for House employees.