Pramila Jayapal (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

INDIAN-AMERICAN Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal held the Speaker’s gavel on Tuesday (4), becoming the first South Asian American woman to preside over the US House of Representatives.

Born in Chennai, Pramila Jayapal, 53, a Democrat from Washington DC, took to Twitter to share a clip of Tuesday’s session where she was seen presiding over the House as a temporary speaker.

In the text that accompanied the clip, Jayapal, who was first elected in 2016, wrote, “Today, I became the first South Asian American woman to preside over the US House of Representatives. Beyond proud to serve in the most diverse Congress in our nation’s history and to hold the gavel today.”

The 116th Congress broke records with women and lawmakers crossing racial and religious barriers, including an all-time high for Asian American lawmakers.

A record number of 17 Asian Americans serve in Congress, with 14 in the House and three in the Senate.

Although Nancy Pelosi has been serving as the Speaker of the House of Representatives since January 2019, members of the majority party in the House periodically take turns to temporarily preside over the chamber.

On Wednesday (5), Jayapal re-introduced a bipartisan legislation in the US House of Representatives that aims to raise awareness about the alarming rate of heart disease in the South Asian community, including Indians, and invest in reversing this trend.

Co-sponsored by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina, the bill known as “South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act” will create South Asian heart health promotion grants at the Centers for Disease Control to develop a clearinghouse and web portal of information on South Asian heart health, develop culturally appropriate materials to promote heart health in the community members.

“Heart disease in the South Asian community has risen to an alarmingly disproportionate level. Our bill will fund research and analysis to identify solutions to these preventable circumstances and ultimately save more lives,” said Jayapal, 53, introducing the Bill.

“Not only will we prevent deaths within this specific community, but we will pave the way to increased awareness and a better understanding of heart health that will have impacts on the health and well-being of every American,” she said.