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The 117th Congress was sworn in Sunday ahead of a critical week in Washington that will see the balance of power in the Senate decided – as a cadre of Republican lawmakers engage in a futile attempt to undo President-elect Joe Biden’s clear Electoral College win by objecting to some states’ votes.
As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it, “To say the 117th Congress convenes at a challenging time would indeed be an understatement.”
Here’s the week ahead:
Monday, January 4
The first full day on Capitol Hill for the 117th Congress. Remember, this Congress looks a little different than the last.
House Democrats kept control of the House in the November elections, but will now have a narrower majority after suffering a string of losses, despite projections that they would win more seats. Nancy Pelosi will keep her title as House Speaker after securing enough votes for reelection in the chamber Sunday.
House Republicans, meanwhile, outperformed expectations and are now poised to add a significant number of GOP women to their ranks in the new Congress.
In the Senate, the balance of power won’t be determined until Tuesday at the earliest.
Tuesday, January 5
All eyes turn to Georgia, where a pair of Senate runoff elections will determine which party controls the chamber.
If either of the incumbent Republicans – Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue – hold on to their seats, the party will maintain its majority control in the chamber.
If Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both prevail, however, Democrats would gain control of the Senate thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
An average of recent Georgia polls show both races within the margin of error and way too close to call, CNN’s Harry Enten writes.
In the race for the full six-year term, Ossoff is at 49% to Perdue’s 48%. In the special Senate election, Warnock is at 50% to Loeffler’s 48%. (More on Georgia’s long journey to a swing state here.)
Wednesday, January 6
“Wednesday, January 6, is a day fraught with meaning,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats in anticipation of both chambers meeting to count Electoral College votes.
Usually a ceremonial exercise, the process is poised to be defined by a futile bid from Congressional Republicans to deny Biden’s election win.
A dozen GOP senators – a handful of whom were sworn-in today – have announced they will vote against counting electoral votes for Biden. And at least 140 House Republicans are expected to join their Senate colleagues in the effort, according to two GOP House members.
The gambit, though, is doomed to fail and it bears repeating that the allegations driving these objections are not based in reality.
There have been no credible allegations of any issues with voting that would have impacted the election, as affirmed by dozens of judges, governors, and election officials, the Electoral College, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Supreme Court.
Thursday, January 7
Electoral College deliberations could spill into the early morning hours Thursday. For every state objection, the House and Senate must each debate separately for two hours and hold a vote.
That’s ultimately the only procedural outcome of the GOP’s subversion spectacle. Congress will inevitably affirm Biden’s victory as the Electoral College winner and the next president.
Biden will take the oath of office at noon ET on January 20 and officially begin his term as President of the United States.
The event will be significantly scaled-down and Biden’s inauguration committee is urging people not to travel for the event.
“Our goal is to create an inauguration that keeps people safe, honors the grand traditions of the Presidency, and showcases the Biden-Harris Administration’s renewed American vision for an inclusive, equitable, and unified citizenry,” committee CEO Tony Allen said in a statement.