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New Congress Live Updates: the 116th House Votes on New Speaker

Category: Political News,Politics

Right Now: The House is voting on the next House speaker.

• The 116th Congress, with the House in Democratic control, has come to order.

• The roll-call vote to elect the next speaker is set to begin at 12:48, and conclude at 1:57.

• Anticipating victory, Representative Nancy Pelosi suggested President Trump can be indicted.

Right on schedule, the House gaveled in for the 116th Congress, with Democrats now in control. The name plate wasn’t on the door of the Capitol’s sumptuous speaker’s suite yet, but Ms. Pelosi strode out of the speaker’s office toward the chamber, grandchildren in tow.

Lawmakers and their children and grandchildren waved from the well of the House to family members seated in the galleries above. The press section was packed standing-room-only with journalists, and visitors clogged the hallways waiting their turn to go through full-body security scanners and take seats in the balcony overlooking the floor.

Tony Bennett, who sang “I left my heart in San Francisco” at a dinner honoring Ms. Pelosi at the Italian embassy Wednesday night, was spotted in the visitors gallery, as was Mickey Hart, former drummer of the Grateful Dead.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, nominated Ms. Pelosi to be speaker, prompting a standing ovation from most of the Democratic side of the House and much of the spectators in the gallery.

While some Republicans clapped, few if any stood during the multiple ovations during his glowing introduction of Ms. Pelosi.

“House Democrats are down with N.D.P.,” Mr. Jeffries said, using Ms. Pelosi’s initials, and referencing a song by Naughty By Nature, O.P.P.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, received a standing ovation from her colleagues when she nominated Representative Kevin McCarthy to be speaker.

Ms. Cheney referenced Mr. McCarthy’s efforts in working to secure border-wall funding — “yes, Madam Clerk, build the wall” — in a nod to the ongoing government shutdown, which is at an impasse over the demand to fund the wall at the southwestern border. While Republicans stood, no Democrats acknowledged the remark.

[When the House and the Senate Are Controlled by Different Parties, Who Wins?]

Just before 1 p.m., the House began its roll-call vote to elect a new speaker, with each member calling out the name of his or her preferred candidate. Most Democrats were voting for Ms. Pelosi, while most Republicans voted for Mr. McCarthy, but there were defectors on each side.

A handful of freshmen Democrats voted for others. Representative Anthony Brindisi voted for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, while Jason Crow voted for Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, bouncing his baby boy as he spoke, voted for Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois. Representative Jim Cooper, a longtime detractor of Ms. Pelosi, voted “present.”

Representative Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania voted for Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.

Republicans had their own defectors. Representative Justin Amash voted for Representative Tom Massie of Kentucky.

The tally could drag on for as long as an hour, as each member is called on in turn. Ms. Pelosi needs a majority of those present and voting to be elected.

On the other side of the Capitol, the scene was more subdued as Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to more than 30 new senators, who raised their right hands and signed their names one by one into the public record.

“Do you solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?” Mr. Pence asked each senator.

The freshly elected and re-elected senators were young — the youngest, Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, is 39 — and old — the oldest, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, is 85. Several are former members of the House. One, Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, was the Republicans’ presidential nominee in 2012 and has already earned Mr. Trump’s ire for his independent streak.

In total, the new class gives Republicans a slightly more durable majority, 53 to 47, in the upper chamber.

— Nicholas Fandos

Even before she was elected speaker, Ms. Pelosi on Thursday morning started a historic day with a left hook, suggesting that a sitting president could be indicted. She made the comments in an interview with the “Today” show on NBC, when the host, Savannah Guthrie, asked if she agreed that the Justice Department guidelines against indicting a sitting president should be honored by the special counsel, who is investigating whether President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians seeking to put him in the White House.

[With the gavel in hand, she will cement her status as the highest-ranking and most powerful elected woman in American political history. Read our profile of Ms. Pelosi.]

“I do not think that that is conclusive,” she said. “No, I do not. I think that that is an open discussion. I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law.”

For good measure, she warned her left flank that the House would not move quickly to impeach Mr. Trump, but she did not take impeachment off the table.

“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report,” she said. “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we’ll just have to see how it comes.”

— Maggie Haberman

Lest Mr. Trump forget the perils of Democratic control of the House, a California Democrat planned to introduce on Thursday an article of impeachment accusing the president of obstructing justice. And other Democrats planned to offer additional bills to curb Mr. Trump’s ability to meddle in the special counsel’s investigation.

The impeachment article, first introduced in July 2017 by Representative Brad Sherman, is not going anywhere soon. As Ms. Pelosi said Thursday, Democratic leaders will seriously consider impeachment only after Robert S. Mueller III completes his work. But it speaks to the desire — already considerable among liberals — to punish Mr. Trump that could shape House Democrats’ new majority.

The man who would oversee impeachment proceedings, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce a bill designed to protect Mr. Mueller’s investigation from political interference. The so-called Mueller protection bill has long been a target of Democrats, but Republicans refused to consider it.

— Nicholas Fandos

Mr. Trump claimed on Thursday that the government shutdown, now in its 13th day with 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay, was “only because of the 2020 presidential election.”

The House will vote this evening on two bills to reopen the government, one to fund the Department of Homeland Security into February — but without funding for a border wall, which Mr. Trump demands — and another to fund the rest of the shuttered departments and agencies through Sept. 30.

But with House action coming, Mr. Trump is keeping up blame game.

— Emily Cochrane

Swearing-in day is a time for lawmakers to make statements about themselves. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, will do so with their attire.

Ms. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress (the other is Ms. Omar), will wear her mother’s thobe — a traditional Palestinian dress — on the House floor. Her decision is attracting attention on Twitter, with a hashtag #TweetYourThobe, encouraging Palestinian women around the country to tweet photos of themselves wearing thobes.

Ms. Omar, a Somali refugee who wears a hijab, or head covering, will become the first person to do so on the House floor. She has worked with Democratic leadership to carve out a religious exemption to a 181-year old rule barring hats of any type — a move that has drawn criticism from an evangelical pastor who complained she would make the House floor “look like an Islamic Republic.” The Orthodox Union, an umbrella group representing Orthodox Jews, supports the move.

Ms. Haaland, who is one of two of the first Native American women to join the House, is wearing traditional Pueblo dress — including silver and turquoise jewelry and moccasins.

— Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Showing her trademark confidence, Ms. Pelosi has already released excerpts from the speech she plans to give when she wins the speaker’s gavel — assuming she will win an election against the Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California. (The Democrats have 235 members to Republicans’ 199.)

On an incoming freshman class that is historically female and remarkably diverse:

“When our new Members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our Democracy will be strengthened by the optimism, idealism and patriotism of this transformative Freshman Class. Working together, we will redeem the promise of the American dream for every family, advancing progress for every community.”

On growing income disparity, as the rich grow richer and the rest struggle to keep afloat:

“We must end that injustice and restore the public’s faith in a better future for themselves and their children. We must be champions of the middle class, and all those who aspire to it — because the middle class is the backbone of democracy.”

On climate change, an issue that she failed to legislate on the last time she was speaker — with disastrous political results:

“We must also face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis — a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions. The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future. This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water; an economic decision for America’s global pre-eminence in green technology; a security decision to keep us safe; and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation.”

Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, a veteran Democrat and the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, will have the honor of presiding over the first session of the 116th Congress — and the opening debate over how to reopen the government.

In a new House that includes the first two Muslim women, the first two Native American women and a slew of other diversity firsts, Ms. Pelosi turned to the 54-year-old New Englander, who has been in the House since 2001.

“As Speaker, when America marked the 20th anniversary of the landmark, bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act, it was my honor to implement changes to our institution to make it possible for our colleagues with disabilities to preside over the House,” Ms. Pelosi said, announcing her decision. “Now, it is my great honor and joy to build on that progress by selecting Congressman Jim Langevin to serve as the first Speaker Pro Tempore of the new Congress. Together, we are proudly reaffirming a fundamental truth: that in our nation, we respect people for what they can do, not judge them for what they cannot do.”

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