Democrat Kim Schrier became the only female physician in Congress on Thursday.
The representative from Washington state was one of nine candidates sworn in to office that advocacy group 314 Action had endorsed during the 2018 midterms. The group made its mission getting people with STEM backgrounds to run for Congress.
For many outside observers, these victories indicate a changing tide in U.S. politics. As Schrier put it, the age-old tactic of dismissing science by touting a lack of scientific expertise isn’t going to fly anymore.
“Guess what? Now we have scientists. Now we have people who understand looking at data,” she said. “You don't get that excuse.”
As a pediatrician who also has Type 1 diabetes, Schrier spends a lot of time talking about healthcare.
“I will always be a pediatrician; it is my soul. That's the lens that I look at this world through,” Rep. Schrier told VICE News shortly after gaining access to her brand new office. “What does it mean for kids? What does that mean for health care? That really motivated me to run.”
But that’s not the only issue on her mind; the ongoing government shutdown is first on the docket.
“I think it is ridiculous. Thousands of people are not getting a paycheck because of this wall, she said. “And so issue number one is to come in and see if we can pass a budget and get this government working.”
For ocean engineer and newly elected Rep. Joe Cunningham, offshore drilling will be a major priority. “The first bill that I intend to introduce is a bill to ban offshore drilling off the coast of the eastern United States,” the Democrat from Kentucky told VICE News during a 314 Action event Wednesday night.
For her part, engineer and former chemistry teacher Rep. Chrissy Houlahan hopes the election of STEM professionals will lead to a greater focus on cybersecurity, nuclear security, and biosecurity — not to mention climate change.
“Scientists and actually most of the human beings on this planet understand that something is deeply wrong with what's happening to our climate,” the Democrat from Pennsylvania said. “Facts and science matter. And they should drive the conversation, rather than what is currently happening, which is people who choose not to believe the truth.”
VICE News went to Washington and spoke with a few of Congress’ newest nerds.
This segment originally aired Jan. 3, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.