Welcome

New Senators Warnock, Padilla, Ossoff Add Diversity to Chamber

Jan. 20, 2021, 9:04 PM

A trio of senators being sworn in Wednesday bring a little more diversity to a chamber that’s long been dominated by older white men.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is the first Black senator from Georgia and one of only three Black senators in the 117th Congress. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) is the first Jewish senator from Georgia and, at 33, the chamber’s youngest member and its first member to be born in the 1980s. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who was appointed to the Senate seat formerly held by Vice President Kamala Harris, became the first Hispanic senator from the nation’s most populous state, which is home to more than 15 million Hispanics.

But Harris’ exit and two appointed senators’ special election losses mean the Senate now includes 24 women — 16 Democrats and 8 Republicans — which is less than half of their representation in the general population and down from a record 26 women in the 116th Congress.

Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) was unseated by Warnock, and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) lost her seat to Mark Kelly (D). Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) was elected to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi (R) and is the only newly elected woman in the Senate. Harris resigned from the Senate to become the first woman, Black person, and Asian-American to serve as vice president.

Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn in during the 59th presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.
Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Bloomberg

Warnock, a minister, is only the 11th Black senator in history, and no more than three have ever served together. The other Black senators in the 117th Congress are Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Padilla, a former California secretary of state, is the 11th Hispanic senator in history and the sixth serving in the 117th Congress. The others are Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) are the only Asian-American senators in the 117th Congress following Harris’ departure.

The average age of a senator in the 117th Congress is more than 63 years. The oldest senator is Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), 87, who is more than five decades older than Ossoff. Padilla, 47, is the sixth-youngest senator, and Warnock, 51, is the 16th-youngest. Fifty of the current 100 senators are age 65 or older.

The Senate includes two of its nine longest-serving members in history. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), 80, a senator since 1975 and the fifth-longest-serving senator ever, is the new president pro tempore — traditionally the longest-serving senator of the majority party — making him third in the presidential line of succession. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), 87, the most senior Republican senator, has been in the Senate since 1981.

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 78, who’s now minority leader after six years as majority leader, became the 18th-longest-serving senator last week and will be 16th by spring. McConnell eclipsed President Joe Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years before his eight years as vice president.

All but six of the 100 current senators are of the same political party as the 2020 presidential nominee who carried their state. Susan Collins (Maine), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.) are the only Republican senators from the 25 states Biden won. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Jon Tester (Mont.) are the only Democratic senators from the 25 states former president Donald Trump carried.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

To read more articles log in.

Learn more about a Bloomberg Law subscription.