Freshman orientation on Capitol Hill can be a blur: There’s the class photo, the rundown of ethics rules, the caucus meetings, the dinners. But after a grueling election season, there are highlights, too—and for Chrissy Houlahan, it was spending time with her “badasses.”
That’s the moniker Houlahan and some of her fellow military and intelligence veterans in the freshman class gave to their text-message group. “It’s really, really exciting. We’re having the opportunity to hang out in person and not in the virtual space,” Houlahan told me.
Since the campaign, Houlahan, a former member of the Air Force Reserves, has been in regular contact with the former CIA officers Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger and the Navy veterans Elaine Luria and Mikie Sherrill, sharing messages of support and daily life updates. The five women—along with Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer whose race is still too close to call—share backgrounds in national security. Now, their arrival in Congress could usher in a new era for the Democratic Party.
The new House Democratic caucus will have more incoming veterans than in any previous year since 1997, according to Seth Lynn, the head of the nonprofit Veterans Campaign. Next year, the Democratic House majority will be able to exercise more authority over the nation’s national-security agenda, helming important committees like Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Appropriations, and Intelligence. It’s too early to tell how exactly newly elected members with military and national-security backgrounds will influence policy on Capitol Hill. But they could be the start of a redefined Democratic Party that’s more closely associated with national security, the way it is with health care and immigration.