Sunday marks the swearing in of the 117th Congress, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, likely to win re-election despite shrinking the Democratic majority.
Pelosi runs unopposed, but with the Democrats gaining a smaller majority than the previous Congress, she can only afford a handful of lawmakers disqualifying and choosing to write someone else.
Representative Hakim Jeffries, from New York State, told “Fox News Sunday” that Nancy Pelosi will be the next speaker of the House of Representatives. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for Speaker Pelosi for getting the job done.”
In a message to colleagues Sunday morning, Pelosi said the new Congress would convene “at a very difficult time”.
“Every one of our societies has been severely affected by the epidemic and the economic crisis: 350,000 tragic deaths, more than 20 million infections, millions without jobs – a toll that is almost incomprehensible,” she said. “Thank you for your generosity of spirit and patriotism to meet this challenge for the sake of the people.”
“I am very grateful for the trust the members have placed in me,” she added. “I am confident that the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives today will demonstrate the existence of a unified democratic bloc ready to face the upcoming challenges.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the speaker vote – which has to be taken in person – will look different from what it has been in years past. Members will be divided into separate groups rather than gathering all elected representatives on the ground at once. This roll-call vote is expected to take a few hours after it begins on Sunday afternoon.
At least a few members will not turn up for the vote, including Rep. Alsey Hastings, a Florida Democrat, who fights pancreatic cancer, Rep. David Valladau, Republican from California, and Representative Maria Elvira Salazar-Fla. , Who recently tested positive for Covid-19.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Congress attending physician Dr Brian Monahan announced the creation of an area above the House floor for members who have been exposed to Covid-19 but have shown negative results so they can vote in person while remaining in charge of the Capitol in quarantine. He said two Democrats and a Republican are using this option. It is not yet known which members do this.
“The highest possible safeguards have been implemented including separate and enhanced ventilation in this space and separate retention facilities for any member using Gallery 4,” said Monahan. “This step will only be necessary to resume voting by proxy as an option for affected members.”
Pelosi won the previous speaker vote by 220 to 192 over House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California.
Senators were also sworn in on Sunday. The ceremony marked the end of David Purdue’s tenure. Purdue left his Georgia seat vacant until he or Democrat competitor John Oseff be certified as a winner in one of the widely watched Senate runoffs Tuesday in that state. Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, faces a run-off on Tuesday, but remains in her seat during the election because she was earlier appointed to continue an unending term on Sunday.
The Senate now has 51 Republicans and 48 Democrats after the swearing-in ceremony. If the Democrats win the run-offs in Georgia, that split would become 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tied vote, giving the Democrats the majority.
Alex Mo Contributed.