New Congress Is More Diverse

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The next Congress will look slightly more like the real America, with more women, Hispanics and blacks, including the first black man to enter the Senate in a quarter century.

In addition to senator-elect Barack Obama (search), D-Ill., only the third black ever to be elected by popular vote to the Senate, newly elected senators Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Mel Martinez (search), R-Fla., will become the only Hispanic-Americans in the Senate.

The House will see the arrival of Bobby Jindal (search), R-La., the son of immigrants from India and only the second Indian-American to serve in Congress.

There will be 65 women in the 435-member House in the 109th Congress, including Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and 41 other Democrats and 23 Republicans. That's up five from the current Congress.

Among the newcomers are Melissa Bean, D-Ill., a 42-year-old businesswoman who unseated Rep. Philip Crane, the longest-serving member of the House, and Gwen Moore, D-Wis., the first black ever to represent Wisconsin.

The Senate will continue to have 14 women. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, narrowly survived a tough election challenge, but the other four women up for re-election — Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Barbara Boxer of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Patty Murray of Washington — won handily.

The Congressional Black Caucus boosted its representation in the House by three, to 40, all Democrats. That includes such veterans as Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and John Conyers, D-Mich., senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Blacks in Congress are still under the 13.3 percent share of the population in general, but now make up 20 percent of House Democrats. "I think the caucus will play a major role and will be listened to very carefully," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., current head of the Black Caucus.

Cummings said Obama's election in Illinois was a "tremendous victory" that will open the door for other black candidates. "It shows that an African-American who has the right kind of message and is bright and has a lot on the ball can win in a situation where it is predominantly white."

Obama, son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, will be the first African-American in the Senate since Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., left in 1999 and the first black man since Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican who served from 1967 to 1979.

Hispanics in Congress were still well below the national population rate of 13.7 percent, but picked up one seat in the House, with 19 Democrats and four Republicans elected.

More important, Hispanics will return to the Senate for the first time since Joseph Manuel Montoya, D-N.M., was defeated in 1976.

Cuba-born Martinez was Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Bush administration before his successful run for the Senate seat from Florida, while Salazar, D-Col., replaced the retiring Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the only American Indian in the Senate.

With Campbell's departure and the defeat of Rep. Brad Carson, D-Okla., in a Senate bid, the only American Indian in Congress is Tom Cole, R-Okla., a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

There are also five Asians in Congress: Hawaii's Democratic senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye and three Democratic representatives — Michael Honda and Bob Matsui of California and David Wu of Oregon.

According to a Congressional Quarterly survey, the Senate in the new Congress will again be dominated by lawyers, with 58 attorneys, while 32 listed public service and 30 business on their resumes. In the House, 163 members list public service, 162 business and 160 law in their backgrounds.

The House will have 128 Roman Catholics, 36 Presbyterians and 26 Jews, while the Senate will have 24 Roman Catholics, 14 Presbyterians and 11 Jews.