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Incoming lawmakers attend orientation for new House members

Posted November 12, 2020 7:01 a.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2020 1:50 p.m. EST

Incoming lawmakers attend orientation for new House members

— Newly elected House lawmakers are arriving on Capitol Hill on Thursday for orientation as Washington gears up for the next session of Congress, which will officially get underway in January.

New member orientation is a tradition that allows incoming lawmakers, fresh off securing seats in Congress, to learn more about what's to come as they prepare to take office. A second orientation session will take place later in the month.

Before they officially start their terms, members will need to set up and organize their offices, including hiring staff. And they'll need to learn the ropes and get up to speed on how the House operates.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic looms over this year's orientation and upcoming start to a new session of Congress, however.

Congresswoman-elect Ashley Hinson, an Iowa Republican, has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a statement from her office on Thursday, which said that she will miss in-person freshman orientation but will participate virtually.

"She feels great and is quarantining at her home in Marion until advised to do otherwise by her physician," the statement read.

Hinson defeated freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer in Iowa's First District in a closely-watched race.

The freshman class will include an array of notable members, including Madison Cawthorn, a North Carolina Republican who at the age of 25 will become the youngest member of Congress in modern history, according to US House records. Another incoming member who's making history is Ritchie Torres, a New York City Council member who won his US House race to represent the South Bronx, becoming the first black member of Congress who identifies as gay.

Another notable dynamic of the freshman class is that House Republican women will have dramatically expanded their ranks as a result of the elections.

At least 13 non-incumbent Republican women won their contests, according to CNN projections, a tally that breaks the record from 2010 of nine non-incumbent GOP women winning House races, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics.

That's a big change from the 2018 midterms, when only one new Republican woman won, West Virginia's Carol Miller.

In Oklahoma, Republican Stephanie Bice took back the 5th District, which Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn flipped in one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 midterms. In Iowa's 1st District, Ashley Hinson, regarded as one of the party's best recruits, defeated freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer. Yvette Herrell knocked off freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in a rematch in New Mexico's 2nd District. And in South Carolina, Republican Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, unseated Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, who had flipped the Charleston-area seat in 2018.

Democrats will keep control of the House in the next session of Congress, CNN has projected. But in a setback for the party, Democrats are on track to have a smaller majority after some of their incumbents lost and challengers failed to pick up top-targeted GOP seats.

Heading into Election Day, Democrats were optimistic about expanding their majority. But at least seven Democrats lost their seats, including a handful of freshmen who had flipped districts in 2018 that had backed President Donald Trump in 2016. Meanwhile, Republicans held on in suburban areas where Democrats were hoping to make inroads.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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