The House and Senate are both in session this week. At noon on Sunday, January 3, the new 117th Congress officially began, with all newly elected Representatives and Senators sworn-in for two and six-year terms of office, respectively. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was also re-elected Speaker of the House for another two years, receiving a total of 216 votes, two more than she needed given the total of 427 members who participated in the vote.
On Monday, the House voted to adopt its rules package (H. Res. 8) governing proceedings for the 117th Congress (2021-22). The package includes: the elimination of the “motion to recommit with instructions,” which gives the House minority a last chance to propose changes to legislation on the floor; allows legislation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to be exempted from budget rules; extends the vote-by-proxy system implemented in 2020; and creates a new Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth “to investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to make our economy work for everyone, empowering American economic growth while ensuring that no one is left out or behind in the 21st Century Economy.” The House will also vote on five bills under suspension of the rules, including the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021, which requires budget justification documents prepared by federal agencies to be posted online and listed on a central website.
On Tuesday, voters in Georgia head to the polls to vote in two U.S. Senate runoff elections, which will determine which political party will control the upper chamber for the next two years. Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) are running against Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively. If Ossoff and Warnock both win, the Senate will be split 50-50 and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the tie-breaking vote that would put the Senate’s legislative agenda in the hands of current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for 2021-22. If one or both incumbent Republican Senators win, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will continue to control the Senate’s agenda for the next two years. The results of the Senate races could take days or weeks to be counted as Georgia tallies the votes in what is expected to be an incredibly close race, potentially delaying Senate proceedings until late January.
On Wednesday at 1pm ET, the House and Senate will convene for a Joint Session of Congress, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, to count the electoral ballots for the President and Vice-President of the United States, officially completing the 2020 presidential election. On December 14, 2020, the 538 members of the Electoral College met in all 50 state capitals and the District of Columbia—President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a total of 306 electoral votes while Donald Trump and Mike Pence received a total of 232 electoral votes. Members of Congress may object to the returns from any individual state as they are announced and objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the House and Senate. If an objection meets these requirements, the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours. The two houses then vote separately to accept or reject the objection. They then reassemble in joint session, and announce the results of their respective votes. An objection to a state’s electoral votes must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded. Once all objections have been heard, Vice President Pence will officially announce the results.