Taylor Anderson Staff Writer
In the November midterm elections of 2018, the Democratic Party had a significant number of Congress freshmen joining the House of Representatives. New representatives included Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Dan Crenshaw, and Ayanna Pressley. Following the election, the Democratic party took control of the house.
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez
Possibly the most well-known congress freshman, 29-year-old Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made headlines with her unique background and outspoken character. While campaigning in 2018, Ocasio-Cortez received little media coverage until she defeated the long-time incumbent Joe Crowley in the June primary elections. Following her primary election victory, Ocasio-Cortez was increasingly covered by the media and endorsed by organizations such as MoveOn and Black Lives Matter. During the general election, she was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama. Ocasio-Cortez won the general election with 78 percent of the vote. Throughout her campaign, Ocasio-Cortez supported ideologies like Medicare-for-All, housing as a human right, justice system reform and immigration justice. Immigration justice focuses on the human and legal rights of United States immigrants. She also voiced her opinions on corporate election funding and the abolishment of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
During the six months since she has taken office, Ocasio-Cortez has sat on notable congressional committees, including the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform which handled the testimony of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer who has been convicted of tax evasion, campaign finance, and more charges. As a result, her presence within the media has increased. Ocasio-Cortez received praise over her direct line of questioning in the Cohen hearing, particularly focusing on individuals who could be aware of President Trump’s possible insurance fraud and tax-fraud allegations. She has also worked closely with Democratic representatives in order to develop the Green New Deal. The deal called for all energy resources to be clean, renewable and have zero-emissions by 2030. The deal also incorporated social changes, including health-care for all and universal basic income. The Senate voted down the deal in late March, however. Ocasio-Cortez is now working on similar, smaller bills.
Dan Crenshaw, former Navy SEAL, and Republican ran for Texas’ second congressional district starting from 2017 and was increasingly covered in the press during the last few days of campaigning. During his campaign, he voiced the importance of immigration and border security. In early November, Saturday Night Live (SNL) comedian Pete Davidson joked about Crenshaw’s appearance and commented on the loss of his eye during war. The joke was heavily criticized, but Crenshaw appeared on SNL later and accepted an on-air apology from Davidson. Some speculate that this widespread coverage increased Crenshaw’s chances of winning his seat in Congress.
Throughout his time in office, Crenshaw has supported Trump’s proposed wall and has opposed the For The People Act of 2019 because he believed the act would reduce free speech in the United States. The For The People Act of 2019 is a bill that aims to expand voting rights, limit gerrymandering and reduce private campaign financing. He recently voted against the Climate Action Now Act, a bill that requires the President to develop a plan to achieve goals agreed on during the Paris Agreement and does not permit funding to be used to withdraw from the agreement. He also voted against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, a bill that has been updated to protect women from domestic violence and abuse, including transgender women and women in prison.
Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District Representative Ilhan Omar made history by being one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Omar was the first congresswomen to wear a hijab on the House floor. She has made frequent headlines in the last few months over her critique of Israel, particularly regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. During the 2018 campaign, Omar vocalized her beliefs that private prisons should be banned, more refugees should be accepted into the United States and that the U.S. should cut $598.4 billion of military spending. Omar has been critiqued and widely covered by media in recent months due to her criticism of the Israeli government and her opinions on foreign policy. She has recently been covered by the media in regards to her hostile relationship with the President and her remarks about 9/11. Omar voiced a controversial statement on the attack saying “CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us [Muslims in the U.S.] were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” News organizations, like The New York Post, and government representatives criticized her phrase “some people did something.”
In January, Omar and other Democratic representatives condemned President’s Trump decision to support Juan Guaidó. Omar has been vocal in her criticism over the U.S.’s economic sanctions and policies related to the Venezuela crisis. Omar has been critical of military spending and Trump’s recent policy decisions. In April 2019, the congresswoman signed a letter urging Trump to reconsider military United States policies, especially in Afghanistan.
A businessman and the older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, Greg Pence won a seat in Congress in the 2018 elections with a large portion of the votes in Indiana’s sixth congressional district. Pence is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is pro-life. Pence is an adamant supporter of President Trump, border security and the construction of the wall.
In 2019, Pence has voted against the Climate Action Now Act and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. He voted to pass a resolution that would require the Department of Justice to release the Mueller report to Congress and the public.
A former member of the Boston City Council, Ayanna Pressley was elected as the representative for Massachusetts’ 7th District in 2018. Pressley is an advocate for sexual education and reducing sexual violence. She is also in favor of universal healthcare and believes ICE should be defunded. During her campaign, Pressley supported criminal justice reform and frequently spoke about her family’s experience while her father was incarcerated. She also advocated to reinstate the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and supports work to reduce global warming.
In March 2019, Pressley proposed an amendment to the For The People Act of 2019 that would lower the voting age from 18 to 16, but it was defeated. Pressley also helped introduce the Be HEARD Act in April that aimed to abolish the tipped minimum wage and pre-employment non-disclosure agreements in order to encourage people to report sexual harassment. Pressley strongly supported the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and gave tribute to her mother’s experiences when it was passed.
Republican former NFL player Anthony Gonzalez won the seat of Ohio’s 16th congressional district in 2018. While campaigning, Gonzalez pushed to alter welfare reform and promised to work to reduce unemployment levels. Although Gonzalez is of Cuban heritage, immigrants, his campaign urged immigration reform and illegal immigration to be eradicated. Gonzalez also campaigned for reduced prescription drug costs and is pro-life.
Gonzalez is part of the Financial Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. He recently voted against the Equality Act, an act that would implement anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination laws, the Climate Action Now Act, and voted for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.
Over the past few months, several new congressional members have made headlines and worked to pursue their goals in the United States government. Certain acts, such as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act 2019 and the Climate Action Now Act were passed by the House of Representatives, many congress freshmen voted for these acts.