2019 is already off to a roller-coaster ride of a start, especially in Washington. Thanks to the results of the 2018 midterm elections, the makeup of the nation's leadership is about to undergo a big shift for the next two years, and it all begins on Thursday, Jan. 3, which is swearing-in day for the new Congress. On social media, tweets about the 116th Congress are here for all of it, from the drama to the celebrations.
If anything is predictable, it's that there's almost no predicting how this new Congress and the president in particular will move forward over the next two years, with a divided government for the first time under President Donald Trump. But there are a few givens, and they've got some people really worked up.
Among the changes this new Congress marks: It's the most diverse classes of lawmakers ever. Women will now make up 25 percent of the new House, a record-breaking share of the chamber. And over a third of these women are first-timers; many of them are younger than the average age of U.S. members of Congress.
One caveat: this diverse influx is mostly specific to the House, and to Democrats. For example, as NPR points out, only 21 Republican women are now in Congress, a drop from previous sessions.
This Congress will also see the first Muslim women joining the House, the first Native American women, and a handful of Latina and African American women. So the class photo this year will look quite different from previous years'.
Overall, the 116th Congress is also sporting a lot of fresh new faces to Washington: 92 freshman legislators will join the House, and nine will join in the Senate, according to Newsweek. In fact, if you're curious just how much this new Congress reflects American citizens demographically, Quartz made a handy interactive where you can plug in a gender, race, and age to see how this Congress fits the bill compared to previous versions.
In any case, plenty of people both on social media and offline were wishing a Happy Swearing-In to the world.
It's clear that the new Congress and its new leadership had plenty of support.
But there are other reasons people are watching this swearing-in day with baited breath. The new House will have the power, and likely the political will, to take certain matters into their own hands: namely, demanding the release of Trump's tax returns, investigating the president's businesses, and subpoenaing information and reopening investigations related to the Russia probe, to name a few. Several Democratic House members, both incoming and incumbent, have made it clear they plan to do just that. And if the Democrats' pushback against Trump in his demands for border wall funding is any indication, party leaders are well aware of the leverage they now have and are not willing to budge easily.
The new House will also likely be pushing for a slate of new legislation, and that could bring about a fresh round of political showdowns in the years to come.
Of course, beyond the drama-laden investigations hanging over this presidency, a divided government in general comes with its own challenges. The fact that Democrats are taking the House means everyone, including the president, may have to start making some concessions in order to get anything accomplished in the next two years. Nothing can get passed legislatively without the House and Senate's signing off on them, so both parties have an incentive to make deals and compromises (though this is all theoretical and anything could happen with this Congress). This means that anything that reaches Trump's desk will likely be a more bipartisan and less extreme agreement. And as with Democrats, the president's handling of the border wall funding signals a tendency to change tacks and a resistance to making compromises.
Finally, the 2020 election is already very much on the horizon, and both Washington's residents (new and old) and their constituents will be watching closely how everyone in the government navigates these waters. Whatever the next two years bring is anyone's guess, but in the meantime, today is a big day for the nation.