Inside the Beltway: U.S. Congress now most diverse on record


A quarter of voting members — 23% — in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities, making the 117th Congress the “most racially and ethnically diverse in history” reports a new Pew Research Center study.

“Overall, 124 lawmakers today identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American, according to data from the Congressional Research Service. This represents a 97% increase over the 107th Congress of 2001-03, which had 63 minority members,” the study says.

“Among today’s senators and representatives, the overwhelming majority of racial and ethnic minority members are Democrats (83%), while 17% are Republicans, This represents a shift from the last Congress, when just 10% of non-White lawmakers were Republicans,” said the study, which reflects the 532 voting members of Congress seated as of Jan. 26.

Still, the study said current percentages skew “disproportionately White when compared with the overall U.S. population.” Non-Hispanic White Americans account for 77% of voting members, larger than their 60% share of the U.S. population.

“Representation of some racial and ethnic groups is now on par with their share of the total population. For example, 13% of House members are Black, about equal to the share of Black Americans. And Native Americans now make up about 1% of both the House and the U.S. population,” the study noted.


“Ammunition has become the new toilet paper,” writes Joe Taschler, a business reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Fears about the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as images of violent unrest across the country — including at the U.S. Capitol — and a surge in hunting and outdoor pursuits have sent firearm and ammunition sales in America soaring. Ammunition of just about every caliber is in short supply in many areas of the country,” Mr. Taschler says, adding that all ammunition supplies in his own state of Wisconsin are “cleared out.”

Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation advises that there were a record-breaking 17.2 million background checks completed in 2020, according to FBI data — topping the 15.7 million check in 2016, the previous high-water mark for gun sales.


Facebook — which currently enjoys 2.8 billion active users a month — is also enjoying some tidy profits. The social media giant’s total revenue was $86 billion in 2020, up 22% compared to the previous year. After costs and expenses, Facebook had a profit of $33 billion, up 36% compared to 2019, when the figure stood at $24 million.

Did political drama and the 2020 election have anything to do with the increase? There’s no ready answer. Nevertheless, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is candid about his uneasiness sharing “divisive” or political content.

“One of the top pieces of feedback that we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a conference call with investors this week.

“There has been a trend across society that a lot of things have become politicized and politics have had a way of creeping into everything,” he noted.

“We stopped recommending civic and political groups in the U.S. ahead of the elections. We’re continuing to fine tune how this works, but now we plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term, and we plan to expand that policy globally,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook — noting it was an effort to “down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities.”

And now what?

“Zuckerberg didn’t elaborate on how Facebook might reduce political content shown to users in the News Feed. But, if the company is serious at doing so, it’s hard to imagine that the forthcoming moves won’t have a significant impact on the hyperpartisan news publishing industry. Right-wing pundits such as Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro have built digital empires, largely driven by their Facebook pages. Will Zuckerberg’s move put a dent in their business?” asks Oliver Darcy, CNN’s senior media reporter.

“Prepare for claims of censorship,” he predicts.


“Vaccine Tourism”

Here’s a handy term coined by Variety, now following efforts by Hollywood stars, movie moguls, agents and dealmakers to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination ahead of, well, everybody else.

“It’s clear that power and wealth, which allow many in the Hollywood community to afford on-demand doctors and access to private planes to engage in vaccine tourism, have enabled them to get shots more safely and efficiently than average citizens. It illustrates the gaping chasm that exists between haves and have nots in this country,” Variety advised.

“We’ve been offered bribes. We see people taking planes to every location. We’ve seen people try to transiently get into the healthcare profession or on staff at nursing homes, so they qualify for an early vaccine,” Dr. Robert Huizenga — a Beverly Hills-based physician — told the news organization.


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• 77% of U.S. adults oppose using U.S. tax dollars to support abortion in other countries; 95% of Republicans, 85% of independents and 55% of Democrats agree.

• 58% overall oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions in the U.S.; 83% of Republicans, 65% of independents and 31% of Democrats agree.

• 53% overall consider themselves to be “pro-choice”; 20% of Republicans, 56% of independents and 77% of Democrats agree.

• 43% overall consider themselves to be “pro-life”; 78% of Republicans, 40% of independents and 20% of Democrats agree.

• 4% overall are unsure of their beliefs; 2% of Republicans, 4% of independents and 3% of Democrats agree.

Source: A Knights of Columbus, Marist poll of 1,173 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 11-13 and released Thursday.

• Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.

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