A historic day in Congress

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 5:20 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019
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1:54 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

McConnell asks new Democratic House if it will choose "policymaking or presidential harassment"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed the 116th Congress on Thursday, which is also the 13th day of the partial government shutdown.

"I’m glad to be welcoming back my friends and returning colleagues to what I hope will be a productive session," he said.

McConnell also spoke about the House, which switched from Republican to Democratic control today.

"We know that the Senate with a Republican majority is fertile soil for big, bipartisan accomplishments. The question is, will the newly Democratic House join in this good momentum or bring it to a standstill?" he said.

He continued: "It's a clear choice and will be clear to the American people watching all this at home. Good governance or political performance art? The public interest or political spite? Policymaking or presidential harassment?"

1:27 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

These are the Democrats who could vote against Pelosi

From CNN's Ashley Killough, Annie Grayer and Manu Raju

Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, will likely vote against Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, will likely vote against Democrat Nancy Pelosi. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Nancy Pelosi — who has previously served as both House minority leader and speaker of the House — was just nominated for the speakership.

As elections get underway, we're expecting some Democrats to vote against her.

There are 431 members on the floor today, so Pelosi needs 216 votes — a majority of those present.

Among the incumbent Democrats we expect to see vote against Pelosi today: 

  • Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York (voted for Rep. Tim Ryan in 2017)
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon (a vocal critic of Pelosi)
  • Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin (voted for Rep. Jim Cooper in 2017)
  • Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee (voted for Rep. Tim Ryan in 2017)
  • Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania (previously won a special election in suburban Pittsburgh, in part, by running against Pelosi.)

It's unclear how a number of freshmen will vote. These are Democrats to keep an eye on:  

  • Jared Golden
  • Jeff Van Drew
  • Mikie Sherrill
  • Max Rose
  • Anthony Brindisi 
  • Joe Cunningham
  • Ben McAdams
  • Abigail Spanberger 
  • Jason Crow
  • Haley Stevens
  • Elissa Slotkin
12:56 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

Nancy Pelosi has officially been nominated for House speaker

Rep. Hakeen Jeffries, the Democratic Caucus chair, officially nominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be the next speaker of the House.

Pelosi previously held the title when she served as the first and so far only female House speaker from 2007 to 2011.

"Nancy Pelosi is just getting started. In the 116th Congress, she will continue to fight hard for the people," Jeffries said.

So what happens now? Members will be called individually, in alphabetical order, to say the name of the person they are voting for.

The current number of members on the floor today is 431, and the magic number needed to win the speakership is 216 — a majority of those present.

We expect to see the vast majority of Democrats vote for Pelosi, with about 15 or so Democrats not voting for her. She can afford to lose 18 Democrats and still get to 217.

Watch below:

12:55 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

Why singer Tony Bennett is at the Capitol today

Singer Tony Bennett waits for the first session of the 116th Congress to start at the US Capitol Jan. 03, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Singer Tony Bennett waits for the first session of the 116th Congress to start at the US Capitol Jan. 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Legendary singer Tony Bennett is among several guests at the Capitol today to support Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become the next speaker of the House.

Bennett performed at a ceremony Wednesday night for Pelosi, CNN's Phil Mattingly reported.

Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and Project Runway's Tim Gunn were also in the House gallery to watch Pelosi's swearing in.

If elected, Pelosi will the first person to reascend to the speakership in more than 60 years, Mattingly said.

12:45 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

The House will vote on its new speaker soon. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN's Ashley Killough, Annie Grayer and Manu Raju

Any moment now we expect to start seeing the roll call for the speaker vote. We expect Nancy Pelosi to secure the speakership — even though some Democrats won’t vote for her.

Here's how it will work: Unlike most roll call votes, members will be called individually, in alphabetical order, to say the name of the person they are voting for, rather than vote with voting cards. 

The numbers: As of now, we're told there are two vacancies today. (One vacancy is due to the North Carolina race, and one is because Walter Jones is not here today.) 

That means the current number of members on the floor today is 431, and the magic number needed to win the speakership is 216 — a majority of those present.

We expect to see the vast majority of Democrats vote for Pelosi, with about 15 or so Democrats not voting for her. She can afford to lose 18 Democrats and still get to 217.

However: Some of those members could very well vote “present,” which would actually help Pelosi because it would lower that majority number down from 217 even further. We won’t really know who will vote present until it happens. 

Members who don’t vote for Pelosi or don’t vote present must say another person’s name. 

Among the incumbent Democrats we expect to see vote against Pelosi today are...

  • Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon
  • Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin
  • Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee
  • Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania

Note: This post was updated as only 431 members showed up on the floor, so the new majority number is 216, rather than 217.

1:05 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

Mitt Romney sworn in as US senator days after scathing op-ed

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was the GOP presidential candidate in 2012, was just sworn in as the junior US senator from Utah.

Romney has made a lot of headlines this week. On Tuesday, The Washington Post published an op-ed written by Romney, where he said the Trump presidency "made a deep descent in December" — referencing the several high-profile departures from the administration, including Defense Secretary Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly.

The next day, Romney told CNN that while he would not run against President Trump in the 2020 presidential race, he was not yet sure who he would endorse.

Watch the moment:

12:19 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

New House Oversight chair's first priority: The citizenship question on the census

From CNN's Manu Raju

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings told CNN that his first priority to investigate as chairman will be over the citizenship question in the census.

He said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will be called to the committee.

“He has to answer for something that he said that I don’t think was accurate,” Cummings said, referring to Ross’ previous testimony before Congress about administration discussions about the citizenship question. “We are going to be in search for the truth.”

He added that it’s “premature” to be talking impeachment, saying he wants to give Mueller space to do his work.

12:34 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

Mike Pence is swearing in senators

Vice President Mike Pence, who also serves as the President of the Senate, is swearing in senators on the floor now.

The senators are being sworn in groups of four.

Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, was in the first group. She's the first female senator from Tennessee.

Watch the first group below:

12:36 p.m. ET, January 3, 2019

The historic 116th Congress has convened and Democrats control the House

It's noon in Washington, DC, which means that the 116th Congress has officially convened. In this new Congress, Democrats have taken control of the House, while Republicans continue to hold their majority in the Senate.

The new senators and representatives will be sworn in later today.

Here are the historic firsts this Congress will make...

  • Kansas and New Mexico sent the first Native American women to Congress.
  • Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota are the first Muslim women elected to serve in Congress.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who at 29 years old will become the youngest woman ever in Congress.
  • Republican Marsha Blackburn will be the first female senator from Tennessee.
  • Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith made history in the midterms by becoming the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.
  • Democrat Kyrsten Sinema became the first female senator elected to represent Arizona. Sinema will also make history as the first openly bisexual senator.
  • Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will be the first Latinas to represent Texas in Congress.
  • Incoming Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley will be the first black congresswoman to represent Massachusetts.
  • Democrat Jahana Hayes will be the first black congresswoman from Connecticut.

Watch the moment: