Republican TexanTed Cruz, who had the support of the Tea Party, becomes the third Latino in the U.S. Senate today.

Republican TexanTed Cruz, who had the support of the Tea Party, becomes the third Latino in the U.S. Senate today. (Photo/Getty Images)

New Congress with record number of Latinos to be sworn in today

The new U.S. Congress sworn in today will have 3 Latino U.S. Senators and 28 Latino House members; nine of these are first-time members of Congress.

Latinos demonstrated their power as both voters at the ballot box and as congressional candidates that will make history in the 113th Congress,” said Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) after the elections, and today these elected Latinos start their new jobs in Washington.

The new Congress still faces the ideological disputes that plagued the dysfunctional 112th Congress, one of the least productive in more than 60 years. Tea partyers within the Republican ranks insist on fiscal discipline in the face of growing deficits and have pressed for deep cuts in spending as part of a reduced role for the federal government. Democrats envision a government with enough resources to help the less fortunate and press for the wealthiest to pay more in taxes.

The 113th Congress starts after a bruising few weeks of fiscal cliff negotiations and pretty bitter partisan divisions. Democrats tightened their grip on the Senate for a 55-45 edge in the new two-year Congress, ensuring that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will remain in charge. Republicans maintained their majority in the House but will have a smaller advantage, 235-199. Former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Illinois seat is the one vacancy.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has faced a bruising few weeks with his fractious GOP caucus but seemed poised to win another term as speaker. He mollified angry Republicans from New York and New Jersey on Wednesday with the promise of a vote Friday on $9 billion of the storm relief package and another vote on the remaining $51 billion on Jan. 15. The GOP members quickly abandoned their chatter about voting against the speaker.

The next two months will be crucial, with tough economic issues looming. Congress put off for just eight weeks automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs that were due to begin with the new year. The question of raising the nation’s borrowing authority also must be decided. Another round of ugly negotiations between Obama and Congress is not far off.

There are 12 newly-elected senators — eight Democrats, three Republicans and one independent, former Maine Gov. Angus King, who will caucus with the Democrats. They will be joined by Rep. Tim Scott, the first black Republican in decades, who was tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the remaining term of Sen. Jim DeMint. The conservative DeMint resigned to lead the Heritage Foundation think tank.

In a sign of some diversity for the venerable body, the Senate will have three Hispanics — Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and one of the new members, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. There will be 20 women in the 100-member chamber, the highest number yet.

At least one longtime Democrat, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, will be departing in a few weeks, nominated by Obama to be secretary of state. That opens the door to former Republican Sen. Scott Brown, the only incumbent senator to lose in November’s elections, to possibly make a bid to return to Washington.

Eighty-two freshmen join the House — 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Women will total 81 in the 435-member body — 62 Democrats and 19 Republicans.

NBC Latino’s Sandra Lilley contributed to this story.

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