WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is preparing to convene 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 Donald Trump and the coronavirus surge imposes limits at the Capitol.
Democrat Nancy Pelosi is set Sunday to be reelected as House speaker by her party, which retains the majority in the House but with the slimmest margin in 20 years after a November election wipeout.
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.
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.
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 fraud did not affect 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, as president of the Senate, presides over the session and declares the winner.
Pence is facing growing pressure from Trump’s allies over that ceremonial role. His chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement 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.