A Comprehensive Overview of Key Congress Members
Updated: Jan 13
President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address on January 20, 2015, in a joint session of Congress. (NASA/Bill Ingalls/Flickr)
Who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 2018. (Franmarie Metzler/U.S. House Office of Photography)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialist who made headlines in 2018 by defeating a 10-year New York Democrat representative in the Congressional primacy, becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a third generation Bronxite, educator and activist within the Bronx and Queens districts of the 14th district of New York.
Early Life and Education
Born to a working-class Puerto Rican family in Bronx, New York, Ocasio-Cortez graduated from Boston University, majoring in economics and international relations, and worked for the office of Senator Ted Kennedy, where she focused on immigration issues. Her work in the office of Senator Kennedy offered a first-hand view of the families divided by ICE. These experiences led her to prepare Latinx youth within the Bronx and throughout the United States, and she ultimately began her work as an educational director with the National Hispanic Institute.
Following the financial crisis of 2008, when her father, Sergio Ocasio-Roman, passed away, Alexandria worked extra shifts as a waitress and a bartender to support her family during this period, deepening her commitment to issues affecting the working class.
Role During the 2016 Presidential Election
As an active member of the Democratic Socialist Party of America, who also helped organize Bernie Sanders’s campaign for Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, Ocasio-Cortez ran on a progressive platform — the elimination of ICE, criminal justice reform, tuition-free college and universal health care.
Sworn into Congress
In November, Ocasio-Cortez defeated her Republican rival, Anthony Pappas, to become the youngest woman ever elected to the Congress. She was sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on January 3, 2019. Since her inauguration in January 2019, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has remained committed to representing the working class over corporate interests and promoting social, racial, economic and environmental justice.
The Green New Deal
In February 2019, Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution detailing the scope of the Green New Deal. The resolution suggested a transition to clean energy sources for the entire country, with a plan for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In addition, the proposal called for massive investments in renewable energy technology research and development, with Ocasio-Cortez also promising to provide a federal jobs guarantee, a basic income, and universal health care under the Green New Deal.
Speaking Out on Abortion
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her intense feelings against the state law passed in Alabama in May 2019, which legally prohibited abortion. Tweeting about the new legislation, she wrote: "Ultimately, this is about women's power. When women are in control of their sexuality, it threatens a core element underpinning right-wing ideology: patriarchy. It's a brutal form of oppression to seize control of the 1 essential thing a person should command: their own body."
Ocasio-Cortez was re-elected to the House for a second term on the third of November 2020, defeating Republican John C. Cummings. Her re-election preserves “The Squad" of Congresswomen, consisting of Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Who is Mitch McConnell?
Mitch McConnell, 2016. (U.S. Government)
Mitch McConnell is a long-time Republican Senator from Kentucky. He started his career as an elected official judge of Kentucky's Jefferson County in 1977. In 1984, he was elected to the Senate as a moderate Republican, showing a political acumen that allowed him to rise to the position of minority leader in 2006. McConnell received national recognition for his opposition to the legislative plans of President Barack Obama. Named Senate Majority Leader in 2014, he declined to accept a new Supreme Court candidate for Senate hearings in 2016 following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Early Political Career
McConnell was interned by Kentucky Congressman Gene Snyder and Senator John Sherman Cooper in the mid-1960s. He served as Chief Legislative Assistant to Senator Marlow Cook after law school, and later became Deputy Assistant Attorney General to President Gerald Ford.
McConnell won his first elected seat in 1977 as Chief Justice of Kentucky's Jefferson County. He advocated collective bargaining rights for public employees and directed federal funds towards the expansion of Jefferson Memorial Forest.
In 1984, McConnell defeated Walter D. Huddleston to the Senate, making him the first Republican in the nation to defeat the sitting Democratic senator that year, as well as the first of his party to win the state-wide election since 1968.
Role as U.S. Senator
In his first term in the Senate, McConnell won a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and advocated tax reform. Gaining momentum after his 1990 re-election, he became known for his opposition to campaign-finance reform.
Nominated chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee in 1996, McConnell sued the Federal Election Commission after the implementation of the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Act in 2002, and in 2006 opposed a constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of the American flag. In 2002, he was voted party whip, and four years later he took over as the leader of the Senate minority.
Opposition to President Obama
McConnell dismissed the Democratic appeal for a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. At the end of 2008, he backed the Troubled Asset Relief Scheme, which was signed into law by outgoing President George W. Bush.
With President Obama's 2008 victory granting Democrats control of the White House and both branches of Congress, McConnell concentrated on blocking the new Commander-in-Chief whenever possible. Most prominently, he opposed the passage in 2010 of the Economic Stimulus Bill, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Health Insurance Reform Package, and the Affordable Care Act (also known as the Obamacare Act).
Two years later, amid the Democrats' drive for gun control reform following the massacre of Sandy Hook in December 2012, McConnell voted against a 2013 bill that would have extended the background checks on gun purchases.
Majority Leader and Supreme Court Controversy
With votes in his favor, McConnell oversaw the passage of a five-year highway bill by the Senate, secured reforms in education and social welfare, and advocated a bill to address the opioid crisis. In addition, he continued his work as a senior member of the Committee on Agriculture, Budgets and Rules of Procedure.
The leader of the Senate obstructed President Obama again after the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia in February 2016. With Obama's appointment expected to push the Court in a liberal direction, McConnell declared that "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," then declined to permit the candidate, Merrick Garland, to be heard.
Trump Administration: Obamacare Repeal, Tax Reform, Wall Vote
With President Trump in office, McConnell and other Republican legislators embarked on their long-promised effort to dismantle Obamacare. After several early missteps, the House was able to introduce its version of the repeal legislation in May 2017. However, the Senate bill failed to gain enough momentum, and McConell's updated version was rejected in July.
The failed bill fueled increased friction between McConnell and President Trump, already at odds with the Republican Party leadership. McConnell, however, got back on track by securing the passage of a sweeping Senate tax reform bill in early December. After he and House Speaker Paul Ryan reconciled disagreements, the $1.5 trillion tax bill passed on December 20, 2017, granting Trump his first major legislative win.
In 2019, McConnell found himself cornered again by President Trump's insistence on constructing a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. After a 35-day government shutdown on the problem and a budget agreement that allocated only $1,375 billion to the wall, Trump dismissed McConnell's warnings about lukewarm Senate support and declared a national emergency in February to get more funding. Subsequently, the House passed a bill to overturn the national emergency, and McConnell was unable to block it from entering the Senate, resulting in the first veto of Trump's presidency.
Who is Betty McCollum?
Betty McCollum, 2019. (Franmarie Metzler/U.S. House Office of Photography)
Betty McCollum is a Democrat representing the families in the Fourth District of Minnesota within the House of Representatives of the United States. In 2000, Rep. McCollum made history as the second Minnesota woman to have been elected to the Congress since statehood in 1858. McCollum serves the people of the capital city of Minnesota, St. Paul, as well as all of Ramsey County and much of Washington County.
Career Prior to Congress
Prior to the Congress, Congresswoman McCollum served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000 and was elected Assistant Leader by her Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party colleagues three times. From 1987 to 1992, she worked within the North St. Paul council alongside her neighbors.
In addition to an elected office, McCollum's career included teaching highschool scientific discipline additionally as twenty-five years in retail sales and management. She is a graduate of St. Catherine's College and the mother of two grown children. Congresswoman McCollum is a Minnesota native who grew up in South St. Paul, raised her family in North St. Paul, and now lives in St. Paul's.
Throughout her career in public service, Congresswoman McCollum has championed excellence in education, environmental conservation, expanded access to healthcare, fiscal responsibility, and a strong international commitment that gives priority to diplomacy, growth, and strong national defense.
Education, health care and investment in transport infrastructure are primary policy priorities for the Minnesota and Congresswoman families. With more than 20 higher education institutions located in the fourth district, it is important to keep higher education affordable, accessible and of high quality. As a strong supporter of public education, she advocates keeping our schools accountable to parents and local officials. McCollum is a proponent of universal health coverage for all Americans and a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act. After a decade of work and nearly one billion of federal funding, she welcomed the opening of the Green Line Light Rail Corridor between St. Paul and Minneapolis, along with the renovation of the historic Union Depot as a multi-modal transit center.
Perspective in Congress
Congresswoman McCollum brings common sense to Minnesota's service on the House Appropriations Committee, where she serves as Chair of the Interior-Environment Sub-Committee and Vice Chair of the Defense Sub-Committee.
Speaking on Climate Change
Protecting clean air and water, wilderness and our nation's natural treasures for future generations is one of McCollum's top priorities as Chair of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. In fiscal year 2018, the Subcommittee allocated more than $35 billion in support to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Endowments for the Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Institution, and a number of other associated departments.
Speaking on National Security and Military Health Care
As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, McCollum claims that national security begins by ensuring that the women and men of the armed forces are the most professional and best trained and equipped combat power in the world. McCollum focused on giving priority to military health care, ending military sexual harassment, and promoting international military-to-military collaboration in conflict prevention. The Sub-Committee shall provide support to the Army, Navy (including Marine Corps), Air Force, National Guard, Secretary of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other associated national security agencies.