What is the best way to characterize (based on personal and political backgrounds) the current make-up of Congress?
There are several ways to characterize the 113th Congress of the United States. These ways include political and personal factors about the members of Congress.
Politically, the first word that we should use to characterize Congress is “divided.” Congress is divided politically in a number of ways. The Democrats have control of the Senate. As it stands today, there are 53 Democrats, 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 45 Republicans. Meanwhile, the House is controlled by the Republicans, with 233 members to the Democrats’ 200 (there are some vacant seats at the moment).
The Congress is also more polarized than in past years. This means that the Democrats are more liberal and the Republicans are more conservative than in past years with fewer moderates in either party. This has come about largely because of gerrymandered districts that tend to elect more extreme candidates.
In terms of personal characteristics, this Congress is more diverse than many previous Congresses. White males are still by far the biggest demographic. However, there are more racial minorities, more women, and more sexual minorities than in the past. For example, more than half of the Democrats in the House are minorities or women. There are 28 Hispanics (a record) in the House and 3 (tied for the record) in the Senate. There is also the first openly gay member of the Senate and 6 openly gay (another record) members of Congress altogether.
Thus, there are many ways to characterize this Congress from the political or the personal point of view.