Pelosi Elected Speaker by Democratic Majority: Congress Update

(Bloomberg) -- The new Democratic-controlled House elected Nancy Pelosi as speaker Thursday, marking the start of new scrutiny of President Donald Trump’s administration. The Senate also opened its session and remains under Republican control. Here are the latest developments:

New Democratic Majority Elects Pelosi Speaker (2:03 p.m.)

Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House of Representatives as a Democratic majority took control of the chamber, ending one-party control in Washington.

The California Democrat, the only woman to hold the speakership, won the partisan election with 220 Democratic votes as most Republicans backed Representative Kevin McCarthy.

Pelosi will preside over a House that is the most diverse in history. A record number of women -- 89 Democrats and 13 Republicans -- hold seats in the chamber.

She also takes over as a partial government shutdown enters its 13th day. On the agenda for the day in the House is passage of two measures that would restore funding and reopen federal offices. But Trump and leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate have rejected that plan because it doesn’t include money for Trump’s border wall.

House Begins Roll Call Vote to Elect Speaker (1:02 p.m.)

The House began a roll call vote to choose the next speaker, which is expected to take at least an hour. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California is expected to win, while Republicans nominated Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also of California.

Signs of Diversity in House (12:54 p.m.)

In a sign of the deeper diversity of the new Congress, Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota wore a headscarf as she took her seat in the House chamber.

She and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib, both elected for the first time in November’s midterm vote, are the first Muslim-American women to serve in Congress.

House rules previously had banned headwear on the House floor.

Omar’s bright orange, gold and red headscarf reflects her response in a December tweet to an anti-Islamic critic.

“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America... And you’re gonna have to just deal,” she tweeted.

New member Deb Haaland of New Mexico wore a Native American-style dress and jewelry, as did three children with her. A number of members brought children and grandchildren to the House, including Democrats Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, who held his infant son in his arms, and Eric Swalwell of California, who brought his newborn daughter.

Pence Swears in Senators (12:26 p.m.)

In the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence began swearing in senators as Republicans usher in their expanded 53-47 majority that will give them two more votes than last year.

Pence is swearing in all senators in groups of four, with two newcomer Republicans -- Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mike Braun of Indiana -- in the first cluster. Blackburn is replacing former GOP Senator Bob Corker, who was one of President Donald Trump’s biggest Republican critics in the chamber. Braun beat former Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in the November election.

All senators will sign an official “oath book” after they’re sworn in and will keep the pen.

House Called to Order (12:00 p.m.)

With the clerk of the House presiding, the House opens for a new session of Congress beginning with Democrats and Republicans making nominations for the next speaker. One by one, in alphabetical order, lawmakers’ names will be called out starting at about 12:50 p.m. to cast their ballots. The roll call will take about an hour.

Freedom Caucus Seeks to Keep Influence (11:40 a.m.)

Nancy Pelosi’s rise to the speakership means a decline in influence for the conservative House Freedom Caucus, but its current chairman insists no one should be too quick to dismiss the group of roughly 30 of the chamber’s most headstrong small-government lawmakers.

The group will have to switch its tactics, GOP Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Thursday morning, looking more often to influence bipartisan legislation under Pelosi and her Democratic majority. That will be a big shift from under Republican control, when the small group often withheld its support for initiatives under House Speaker Paul Ryan until members got what they wanted.

“Obviously we have to find different strategies and tactics to make sure that our constituents are represented, but to suggest that the Freedom Caucus will not have influence in the 116th Congress is to ignore the adaptability of our tactics,” Meadows said in a brief interview outside the House chamber, where the change to Democratic control formally takes place at noon.

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