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Meet The New Congress

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The 108th Congress convenes Tuesday with the Senate and House both under Republican control for the first time in two years, and several new faces in key leadership positions.

Bill Frist of Tennessee takes over from Mississippi's Trent Lott as Senate majority leader, and will lead efforts to push President Bush's agenda through a still-closely divided Senate. Republicans turned to Frist, a close ally of the president and the Senate's only medical doctor, to help heal the damage that Lott's racially charged remarks have had on GOP efforts to court minority voters.

Kentucky's Mitch McConnell replaces Don Nickles, R-Okla., as majority whip; while Ted Stevens of Alaska, the chamber's senior Republican following Thurmond's retirement at the age of 100, takes over as president pro tempore.

Tom Daschle, D-S.D., will continue to lead the Senate Democrats, with Harry Reid, D-Nev., remaining as minority whip. Reid, though, could replace Daschle as Democratic leader should the South Dakota senator leave his post to run for president.

On the House side, the Democrats have a new leadership team to guide them after November's election setbacks: Nancy Pelosi, a California liberal, is the new minority leader, taking over for Missouri's Dick Gephardt, who quit his leadership post for a White House run of his own. Steny Hoyer of Maryland is the new Democratic whip.

Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, remains the House speaker, while Tom DeLay moves up in the ranks to replace fellow Texas conservative firebrand Dick Armey, who retired. Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt takes DeLay's old post as Republican whip.

But despite all the changes, some things remain the same. Although a record 22 Hispanics will be sworn into the House of Representatives on Tuesday, and there will be 37 blacks, one more than last year, Congress is still far more white and male than the people it writes laws for.

There are no blacks or Hispanics in the 100-member Senate, nor are there any black Republicans in the House after Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts retired last year. But an unprecedented 14 women will be in the Senate in 2003, joined by 60 women in the House, the same as in 2002.

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's appointment last month of his daughter, Lisa, to the remainder of his Senate term in Washington gives that chamber one more female member than it had last year.

About 51 percent of the U.S. population is female, compared with 14 percent of the House and 14 percent of the Senate. Republican Ginny Brown-Waite, who defeated U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Fla., said some women may be turned off from entering politics by the nasty tone that can characterize campaigns.

"When I meet smart, articulate women, I encourage them to run, but I tell them it's not for the faint of heart," she said. "You have to have a very thick skin and a sense of humor and a burning flame to want to serve."

The 37 blacks in the House compares with a record 39 blacks there from 1993 through 1996. Still, only 8.5 percent of the House is black and only 5 percent is Hispanic. Hispanics and blacks each make up 12 percent of the U.S. population.

The freshman class will include several familiar Washington family names. In addition to Murkowski, other new senators with politically famous fathers are Mark Pryor, D-Ark., the son of former Sen. David Pryor, and John E. Sununu., whose father, John H. Sununu, served as New Hampshire governor and chief of staff to the first President Bush.

North Carolina Republican Elizabeth Dole is the only new senator who has never been elected to office before, but she's no stranger to government. She served as secretary of transportation under President Reagan and secretary of labor under the first President Bush and is the wife of one-time Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. She joins Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., whose husband, Bill Clinton, defeated Bob Dole in the 2000 presidential election.

In the House, Democrat Kendrick Meek of Florida is taking over the seat that was held by his mother, Rep. Carrie Meek. Republican Mario Diaz-Balart joins his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, in representing Florida. And newly elected Democrat Linda Sanchez and Rep. Loretta Sanchez represent neighboring Southern California districts and become the first sisters serving together in Congress.

Most of the newly elected lawmakers have prepared for their political career by working in law, business or politics. The freshman class in the House also brings in retired Marine John Kline, R-Minn., Southampton College provost Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y., and two obstetricians, Drs. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., and Michael Burgess, R-Texas, who together have delivered more than 8,000 babies.

Two members are returning to a job they gave up — Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who retired at the end of 2000 but made another run after Sen. Bob Torricelli dropped out of his re-election race, and Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who served 12 years in the House before he left in an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 1994.

Cooper says he is "older, wiser and balder" this time around and thankful for the chance to be back. "F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives," he said. "It's a great privilege to get one."