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The 111th United States Congress, in session from 2009–2010, consisted of 541 elected officials from 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia. It is the federal legislature of the United States of America, continuing an unbroken chain dating back to the 1st Congress in 1789.
In the Senate, there were 17 women: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
There were 13 Jews, one Cuban American (Bob Menendez, D-NJ) one Japanese American (Daniel Inouye, D-HI), one Native Hawaiian (Daniel Akaka, D-HI) and one African American, Roland Burris (D-IL). The average age of senators in 2007 was 62 years. The oldest senator was Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), born January 23, 1924. The youngest senator was Carte Goodwin (D-WV), born February 27, 1974.
The 111th Congress included the most religiously diverse House in history, including two Muslims (Keith Ellison, D-MN and André Carson, D-IN), two Buddhists (Mazie Hirono, D-HI and Hank Johnson, D-GA), 31 Jews, one Quaker (Rush D. Holt, Jr., D-NJ) and one atheist (Pete Stark, D-CA). There were 42 African Americans (including two non-voting delegates) and 75 female representatives. There were also 27 Hispanics, six Asian Americans (Joseph Cao, R-LA; Judy Chu, D-CA; Mazie Hirono, D-HI; Michael Honda, D-CA; Doris Matsui, D-CA; and David Wu, D-OR), and one Native American (Tom Cole, R-OK). There were three openly gay members (Tammy Baldwin, D-WI; Barney Frank, D-MA; and Jared Polis, D-CO).
The top five religious affliliations in the 111th Congress were Roman Catholic (30.1%), Baptist (12.4%), Methodist (10.7%), Jewish (8.4%), and Presbyterian (8.1%). Protestant denominations have held a large majority throughout congressional history, reflecting American's traditional demographics. In the 111th Congress, 54.7% of seats were held by members of Protestant denominations.
45 Jews served in the 111th Congress. Eleven representatives and six senators were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Senator Olympia Snowe, as well as Representatives John Sarbanes, Zack Space, Gus Bilirakis, Dina Titus, Niki Tsongas and Melissa Bean are Orthodox Christians.
In 2007, Keith Ellison of Minnesota became the first practicing Muslim to become a member of the United States Congress. He was joined by André Carson of Indiana following a special election on March 11, 2008. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Hank Johnson of Georgia became the first two Buddhists to be elected to the United States Congress on November 7, 2006. Johnson is a member of the Soka Gakkai movement and Hirono is a member of the Jodo Shinshu sect, although she is non-practicing. Both are Japanese Buddhist oriented.
Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Representatives Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) and Pete Stark (D-CA) were the only Unitarian Universalists that served in the 111th Congress. In a response to a March 2007 survey from the Secular Coalition for America, Rep. Pete Stark became the only open atheist in the history of Congress. One member of the 111th Congress is a Quaker, Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ).
Nine members of the 111th Congress were categorized Not Given / Unspecified / Unavailable / Don't Know.
There have been six openly LGB members in the history of Congress. Gerry Studds (elected in 1972) became the first openly gay man when he publicly announced his sexuality in 1982. Barney Frank (serving since 1981) first spoke publicly about his sexual orientation in 1987. Steve Gunderson, elected in 1980 and outed in 1994, and Jim Kolbe, elected in 1984 and outed in 1996, are two other previous members of Congress who were openly gay. Current congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is the first and so far only open lesbian to win election to Congress. In 1998, she became the first ever openly gay person to win election to Congress as a non-incumbent. Former California representative Michael Huffington is bisexual, but did not come out until after his term had ended. Jared Polis (who was elected in 2008 and assumed office on January 6, 2009) is the first openly gay man to have been elected to the House as a freshman. Republican representative Mark Foley's homosexuality was well known in his district, though he did not serve openly in Congress and did not come out publicly until after his term ended. It has been widely reported that current congressman David Dreier is gay, though he has steadfastly refused to respond to these reports. Then-Senator Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men's washroom at the Minneapolis airport in 2007, but insisted that he was not gay. There has never been an openly transgender member of the house. There has never been an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender member of the Senate.
Members of the 111th Congress come from a variety of occupational backgrounds. As of the start of the 111th Congress, members of Congress include:
Three Representatives (John Shimkus, Geoff Davis, Brett Guthrie) and one Senator (Jack Reed) are graduates of the United States Military Academy, while two Senators (John McCain, Jim Webb) and one Representative (Joe Sestak) are graduates of the United States Naval Academy. Three Senators (including Russ Feingold and Richard Lugar) and two Representatives (Jim Cooper and Jim Himes) were Rhodes Scholars, three Representatives (Tom Cole and Gabrielle Giffords) were Fulbright Scholars, and one Representative (John M. Spratt, Jr.) was a Marshall Scholar.
A number of members of the 111th Congress had served in the United States armed forces; some are combat veterans. There were 167 veterans in the 107th Congress, 153 in the 108th Congress, 126 in the 110th Congress, and 121 in the current 111th Congress. Some were still serving as reservists during their tenure.
Among the most notable combat veterans include Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who served in World War II as a captain in the 442nd Infantry Regiment and is the only current member of Congress to have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Inouye, fellow Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg are the last remaining World War II veterans in Congress.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a Marine Corps veteran, served in Vietnam as platoon commander with Delta Company, 1st Battalion 5th Marines; he earned a Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) served in Vietnam as a naval aviator. Shot down during his 23rd bombing mission over Vietnam in 1967, McCain was captured and tortured as a prisoner of war and was finally released in March 1973. He earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Navy Commendation Medal and the Prisoner of War Medal, though it was created years afters his release.
African Americans currently make up about 13% of the US population, but have historically been underrepresented in Congress. In the 111th Congress, 42 members (9.5%) of the House were African American. As of 2010, there was one African-American serving in the Senate. Roland Burris was sworn in as senator on January 15, 2009 after being appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Following the end of Burris's tenure in the Senate and his replacement by Republican Mark Kirk on November 29, 2010, there were once again no African Americans serving in the Senate. Barack Obama previously held Burris's seat but resigned from his position on November 16, 2008, after winning the Presidential election of 2008 and becoming the first African American to be elected President of the United States. Until the emancipation of enslaved African Americans after the Civil War and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, blacks were generally barred from voting outside of the Northeast. As a result of these new laws, Joseph Rainey and Jefferson F. Long won election to Congress in majority-black districts and Hiram Rhodes Revels was appointed as senator from Mississippi (then a majority-black state) in 1870. However, the end of Reconstruction in 1876 marked a weakening of black rights and by 1901, when George Henry White left the House after losing a reelection bid, there were no African Americans left in Congress.
In 1929, Oscar Stanton de Priest became the first African American congressman since White. He and his successor, Arthur W. Mitchell, spent their tenure as the only African Americans in Congress while representing a majority-black House district in Chicago. Not until the election of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. of New York City's Harlem did Congress feature two African Americans serving at the same time in the modern era. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which strengthened black voting rights, increased the position of black office-seekers. Shirley Chisholm became the first African American female member of Congress when she won a 1968 election in New York, while Andrew Young of Georgia became the first modern African American congressman from the South after he won election in 1972. In 1970, a year that saw the election of four black freshman congressman, black membership in the House reached double-digits.
Only six African Americans have served in the U.S. Senate. Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce both served during Reconstruction in then majority-black Mississippi. The only popularly elected black senators are Edward Brooke (served 1967–79), Carol Moseley Braun (served 1993–99 as the first black female senator), and Barack Obama (served 2005–08). Roland Burris was appointed to a Senate position in 2009. Brooke served in Massachusetts, while Braun, Obama, and Burris have each held the same Illinois seat.
Representation of Hispanics is somewhat complex, particularly because of the different ways to define membership in this group. Hispanics represent over 14% of the U.S. population, while the Senate was 3% Hispanic and the House was approximately 5% (25 members) Hispanic. Considering that Hispanics make up only 4% of American voters, Hispanic political incorporation has been relatively high compared with previous immigrant groups. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has 21 members. José Manuel Gallegos, a Mexican American, was the first Hispanic in Congress. He was the first delegate to the US Congress from the Territory of New Mexico. The first to represent a state was Romualdo Pacheco, a Mexican American, who represented California in 1877. In 1929, Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo of New Mexico became the first Hispanic to be elected to the United States Senate. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American first elected in 1989, was the first Hispanic woman in Congress. While Hispanic women have served in House, none have been elected to the Senate.
Unlike black Americans, Hispanics never were legally barred from the polls, and in New Mexico and California, they were a large and influential minority. Since the election of Dennis Chavez and Joachim O. Fernández to the House in 1931, Hispanics have continuously been represented in Congress. Most Hispanic members of Congress, including all elected prior to 1970, were of Mexican descent with the exception of Herman Badillo, who won election in 1970, becoming the first Puerto Rican from a mainland state in Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was elected in 1989 as the first Cuban American congresswoman.
Prior to 2005, only three Hispanics have won a term in the U.S. Senate. These members were Octaviano Larrazola (served 1928–29), Dennis Chavez (formerly of the House, and served 1935–62), and Joseph Montoya (also formerly a House member, serve 1964–77), all of Mexican descent. However, two Hispanics won Senate seats in 2004, Ken Salazar and Mel Martinez (the first Cuban American senator). At the end of the 111th Congress, there was one Hispanic in the US Senate: Bob Menendez, a Cuban-American.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a high level of political incorporation in terms of their actual voting population. However, as a result of this group's historically low voting rates, overall political incorporation of the general population is relatively low. The population of this group has increased in size by 600% in the last 30 years[when?] due to immigration. Despite high levels of naturalization and voter outreach efforts, this primarily foreign-born community with less than 1% of voters has 2% of congressional population. As 4.4% of the total population in the United States falls into this category, this 2% still represents less than half of the total Asian American and Pacific Islander population.
There were eight members of Asian or Islander descent in the House and three in the Senate. Senator Daniel Inouye and Representatives Mike Honda, Doris Matsui, and Mazie Hirono are all Japanese Americans. Senator Daniel Akaka is a Native Hawaiian, Delegate Eni Faleomavaega is a Samoan, and Joseph Cao is a Vietnamese American. Bobby Scott of Virginia, who is also half African American, has Filipino American ancestry. Steve Austria of Ohio also claims Filipino American ethnicity. John Ensign of Nevada has claimed that he is 1/8 Filipino American, enlarging the number of those who claim to be Filipino American in Congress to the highest point since the Philippine Islands had been represented as a territory. Judy Chu became the first Chinese American woman in Congress when she won a special election in 2009. David Wu of Oregon is Taiwanese American.
Robert William Wilcox, a Native Hawaiian who served as Hawaiian territorial delegate from 1900 to 1903, was the first Pacific Islander chosen to serve in Congress. Benito Legarda y Tuason and Pablo Ocampo joined the House in 1907 as Resident Commissioners, becoming the first Asian Americans to serve in the Congress, and beginning the representation of the Philippines which ended in 1947. Dalip Singh Saund (served 1957–63) was the first South Asian American in Congress and is one of only two Indian Americans to be elected to the legislature. Hiram Fong, who served three decades in the Senate from 1959 to 1977, is the first and one of only two Chinese American members to have entered Congress. Daniel Inouye (serving since 1959) was the first Japanese American in the House and later the first in Senate. Patsy Mink (served 1965–77 and again from 1990–2002) was the first Asian American woman in Congress. Bobby Scott, elected in 1993, is the first US born member of Congress to have Filipino ancestry. David Wu, elected in 1998, is the only person of Taiwanese ancestry to serve in Congress, while in 2009, Joseph Cao became the first Vietnamese American in the legislature.
Only five members of the U.S. Senate have ever been of Asian American or Pacific Islander backgrounds. Four of these politicians have been from Hawaii.
Compared with the European American, African American, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American communities, American Indians, who comprise 1.5% of the population, are the most underrepresented group. Tom Cole, a Chickasaw, is the only registered American Indian currently in Congress. Tracking Native American members of Congress is complex, since many people of mixed blood are not registered as part of the American Indian population. Charles Curtis, who was three-eighths Native American and had ancestry from a variety of different tribes, was elected in 1892 as the first U.S. representative from this group. Curtis accomplished several other firsts during his political tenure. He became the first American Indian to serve in the US Senate (in office 1907–13 and 1915–29), to lead a major party (served as Republican Senate Majority Leader from 1925–29), and to obtain the office of Vice President.
Several of the nation's major tribes have been represented in Congress in limited number. Charles David Carter (served 1907–27) was the first Choctaw in Congress; William Wirt Hastings (served 1915–35) was the first Cherokee in the legislature; Ben Reifel (seved 1961–71) was the first Sioux to win election to the body. Other than Curtis, only a few members of the U.S. Senate have been American Indians. Robert Latham Owen (served 1907–25) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (served 1993–2005 after several previous terms in the House and the first Cheyenne in Congress) are the others to have earned that distinction.
Middle Eastern Americans also have typically low levels of voting incorporation, except among a particular voting group. As a group, Middle Eastern Americans are not measured by the U.S. Census, which, combined with differences in the definition of this group, makes measuring its percentage of the population difficult. Estimates place about 1.8% of the nation's population to be of this origin. Nearly all Middle Eastern members of Congress have been Lebanese Americans. George Kasem became the first Lebanese congressman when he won his first and only term in 1958. Since Abraham Kazen took office in 1977, serving until 1985, Lebanese Americans have consistently served in Congress. There are currently three Lebanese members of the House: Nick Rahall, Charles Boustany, and Darrell Issa.
Five members of the U.S. Senate have been of Middle Eastern descent, all five with Arab American ancestry and four of Lebanese descent. James Abourezk, who served from 1973 to 1979, became the first Lebanese American Senator. George Mitchell (served 1980–95), who is half Lebanese, became the first Middle Eastern American party leader, as he served as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. James Abdnor (served 1981 to 1987) and Spencer Abraham (1995–2001) also were Lebanese American senators, while John Sununu is the only person of Palestinian ancestry to serve in Congress.
|Parts of this article (those related to section) are outdated. (May 2011)|
There were eight current Representatives who were born overseas—Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Albio Sires from Cuba; Mazie Hirono from Japan; Ciro Rodriguez from Mexico; Pete Hoekstra from the Netherlands; and David Wu from Taiwan. Foreign-born Congresspersons comprised 2% of the voting membership of the House. This figure does not include four members who were born overseas to U.S. citizen parents: Geoff Davis (Canada), Chris Van Hollen (Pakistan), James A. Himes (Peru), and Diana DeGette (Japan).
All other members are implied to be white/ Caucasian since there is no mention of the majority of members of Congress in this article.
Elections for all House seats and 35 Senate seats were held on November 4, 2008 across the country. The Democratic Party increased its majority in both houses, and regained control of the White House before the end of the second term of George W. Bush.
Summary of the November 4, 2008 United States Senate election results [ ]
|Last election (2006)||49||49||2ID||—||—||—||—||100|
|Before this election||49||49||2ID||—||—||—||—||100|
|End of this Congress (two months later)||48||49||2ID||—||—||—||—||99|
|Held by same party||—||2||—||—||—||—||—||2|
|Replaced by other party|| 3 Republicans replaced by|
| 5 Republicans replaced by|
but won re-election
|Lost renomination, held by same party||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||0|
and party lost
|Total not held / gained||8||8||—||—||—||—||—||8|
A Includes two appointees who won special elections to a full term.
ID The two Independents joined with the Democrats to make a majority caucus.
|United States House of Representatives elections, 2008|
|Party||Voting members||Non-voting members|
|Peace and Freedom||64,468||0.04%||0||0||—||—||0||0|
|Independent Green Populist||8,858||0.01%||0||0||—||—||0||0|
|Vote People Change||3,587||0.00%||0||0||—||—||0||0|
|Term Limits for the United States Congress||2,039||0.00%||0||0||—||—||0||0|
|Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico||—||—||0||0||43,607||2.11%||0||0|
|Puerto Rican Independence||—||—||0||0||35,687||1.72%||0||0|
|Invalid or blank votes|