Nancy Pelosi, an 80-year-old lawmaker from California, has faced a scare when a handful of fellow Democrats defected and voted "present" during the floor vote.
Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking woman in the history of US politics, has been narrowly re-elected, as House speaker in a deeply divided new Congress that convened in the final weeks of Donald Trump's presidency.
Pelosi, an 80-year-old lawmaker from California, faced a scare when a handful of fellow Democrats defected and voted "present" during the floor vote.
But the woman who has led the Democratic caucus for several years secured her fourth non-consecutive term as House speaker with a vote of 216 for her against 209 for the Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.
US Congress has convened for the start of a new session, swearing in lawmakers during a tumultuous period as a growing number of Republicans work to overturn Joe Biden's victory over President Trump and the coronavirus surges.
Opening the Senate could be among Mitch McConnell’s final acts as majority leader. Republican control is in question until Tuesday’s runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia.
The outcome will determine which party holds the chamber.
“To say the new Congress convenes at a challenging time would be an understatement," McConnell said as the chamber opened.
Still McConnell said with the start of a new year there are reasons for optimism, “let's make the American people proud.”
It’s often said that divided government can be a time for legislative compromises, but lawmakers are charging into the 117th Congress with the nation more torn than ever, disputing even basic facts including that Biden won the presidential election.
Today in the #Senate: The 116th Congress will end following a pro forma session at 11:45 a.m. At 12:00 noon, the 117th Congress will convene.— Senate Press Gallery (@SenatePress) January 3, 2021
No evidence of fraud
Fraud did not spoil the 2020 presidential election, a fact confirmed by election officials across the country.
Before stepping down last month, Attorney General William Barr, a Republican appointed by Trump, said there was no evidence of fraud that affected the election’s outcome.
Arizona’s and Georgia’s Republican governors, whose states were crucial to Biden’s victory, have also stated that their election results were accurate.
Nevertheless, a dozen Republicans bound for the new Senate, led by Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, and even more in the House have pledged to become a resistance force to Biden’s White House, starting with efforts to subvert the will of American voters.
These GOP lawmakers plan to object to the election results when Congress meets on Wednesday to tally his 306-232 Electoral College victory over Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence, who as president of the Senate, presides over the session and declares the winner, is facing growing pressure from Trump’s allies over that ceremonial role.
Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement on Saturday that Pence “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing ahead, eager to partner with Biden on shared priorities, starting with efforts to stem the pandemic and economic crisis. They plan to revisit the failed effort to boost pandemic aid to $2,000 for most people.
“This has been a moment of great challenge in the United States of America filled with trials and tribulations, but help is on the way,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said in an interview.
“America is a resilient nation, filled with resilient people,” he said. “We will continue to rise to the occasion, emerge from this pandemic and continue to march toward our more perfect union.”
Among the House Republican newcomers are Trump-aligned Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has given nod to conspiracy Q-Anon theories, and gun rights advocate Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who circulated a letter of support to retain the right of lawmakers to carry firearms in the Capitol.
Greene was among a group of House Republicans led by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama who visited with Trump at the White House during the holiday season about their effort to undo the election.
The “Jan. 6 challenge is on,” Taylor Greene said in a tweet pinned to the top of her social media account. Boebert also tweeted support for those challenging Biden's victory.
House Republicans boosted their ranks in the November election, electing a handful of women and minorities, more than ever.
Some of the new GOP lawmakers are being called the “Freedom Force,” and a counter to the “squad” — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other liberal Democratic women who swept to office in the last session.
In a statement Rep. McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader, said the new Republican members “are a strong representation of who America is and where we come from.”
Progressive Democrats bolstered their ranks with newcomers aligned with more liberal priorities.