New Congress Sworn in as Senate Awaits Georgia Races and Debate Over Electors

The 117th Congress began a consequential week in Washington, D.C., as members were sworn into office Sunday and Nancy Pelosi was re-elected as Speaker of the House. While Mitch McConnell has already been reaffirmed as Senate Majority Leader late last year by the Senate Republican caucus, future control of the Senate remains in doubt, pending the outcome of two Senate runoff elections to be held Tuesday in Georgia. On Wednesday, the Senate appears headed toward a heated debate on certifying certain state’s electoral votes cast for President-elect Joe Biden.

Democratic losses in House races during last November’s elections left them with a thin margin over Republicans in the House. With several centrist Democrats having committed not to vote for Pelosi for speaker, an element of drama had been injected in to the race. Ultimately, Pelosi maintained enough support to defeat Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy with 216 votes to McCarthy’s 209.

Control of the Senate rests with the outcome of two runoff races in Georgia that will conclude on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Georgia’s two Republican incumbent Senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are facing strong challenges from Democrats John Ossoff and Rafael Warnocke. If Democrats win both seats, they will have 50 seats, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote, giving effective control to the Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the next likely Senate Majority Leader. If Republicans hold on to one of the seats, they will maintain control of the Senate.

On Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to certify the results of the Electoral College, a constitutional requirement that has largely been ceremonial. However, President Donald Trump has continued to challenge the results of the November presidential election, and at least 12 Senate Republicans, led by Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, have said they would challenge the Electoral College certification. The required debate will likely delay, but not change the outcome, as ultimately the Senate is expected to certify the results.