Seven New Congress Members Who Will Shake Up Washington

A handful of newcomers could make an immediate impact on Capitol Hill.


The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is lifted by crew members in Washington. In a few weeks, flashy new congressmen will replace the tree as the most interesting sight on the Hill.

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In January, 90 new members of Congress will arrive in Washington to serve in the 113th Congress. And a handful of them are expected to be major players. The crew includes the first disabled female veteran, a Santa Clause impersonator, a man who campaigned as a 30-year-old virgin and a Wall Street attack dog. While Congress seemed wildly divided in 2012, these strong personalities slated to start in 2013 aren't backing down from the challenge ahead. Here are seven new lawmakers ready to shake up Capitol Hill.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz - Cruz turned heads in August after he defeated powerful establishment candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary. Since then, Tea Party groups have looked to Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, to define the future of the GOP's immigration policy. In a post-election speech for the American Principles Project, Cruz outlined his vision of how the Republican Party could recover after losing the White House and the Senate in the 2012 election.

"We didn't win the argument," Cruz said at a dinner for the American Principles Project. "Republicans nationally, the story we conveyed, is that the 47 percent were stuck in a static world. I cannot think of an idea more antithetical than the American principals this country was founded on."

[FLASHBACK: Cruz Forces Runoff in Racially Tense Primary]

Before he has even landed in Washington, his demanding presence and critical look at his own party has caused pundits to speculate about a 2016 presidential bid.

Expect Cruz to be a major Republican Party spokesman and guide into the party's future, especially on how to appeal to Hispanic voters. "There is no doubt Republicans have got to do a better job with the Hispanic community," Cruz said during a speech after the election. "Immigration matters, especially tone. Nobody is going to vote for you if they think that you do not like them. I think Republicans need to remain a party that supports securing the border and stopping illegal immigration, and at the same time welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants."

Illinois Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth - One of the first female Black Hawk helicopter pilots to fly combat missions, Duckworth survived a 2004 rocket-propelled grenade attack. She lost both legs and part of her right arm, but managed to safely land her helicopter before attending to her injuries. Duckworth competed in one of the most bitter races in 2012, against Tea Party incumbent Republican Joe Walsh. Duckworth proved herself as a hefty fundraiser, outspending her opponent by more than $3 million. Duckworth, who served as the assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, will serve on the House Armed Services Committee and will be the first female double-amputee to serve in the House of Representatives.

[RELATED: First Two Female Veterans Elected to Congress]

Duckworth has said she hopes to make policy that better reflects the needs of veterans who return home after combat. Duckworth supports expanding education opportunities for veterans: While serving as the leader of the Illinois veterans bureau, she successfully implemented a program to give tax breaks to local businesses who hired veterans.

 Michigan Republican Rep. Kerry Bentivolio­ - The libertarian-leaning Bentivolio won election in Michigan's 11th District after long-time GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter resigned from Congress amid a petition fraud scandal. Bentivolio is an outspoken opponent of the Federal Reserve and an Iraq war veteran who questions U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts. But Bentivolio has a checkered resume when compared to others on Capitol Hill. Before he was a congressman, Bentivolio raised reindeer and was a Santa Claus impersonator in a slew of holiday events across Michigan.

During the election, Bentivolio made headlines after USA Today uncovered an old court statement, signed by Bentivolio, reading "I have a problem figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio. All my life I have been told I'm Kerry Bentivolio, and now, I am a Santa Claus, so now I prefer to be Santa Claus."