New Congress set to convene as uncertainty plagues McCarthy’s bid for speaker

Washington— The new year brings with it a new Congress set to convene on Tuesday, kicking off two years of divided government and resistance for President Biden from a GOP-controlled House determined to thwart his agenda.

The House and Senate will meet at noon Tuesday to mark the start of the 118th Congress, for which Democrats maintain control of the upper house but the House will be held by a narrow Republican majority. Eighty-two new members are to be sworn in for the first time — 47 Republicans and 36 Democrats — including several who are making history and one, elected GOP Rep. George Santos of New York, who is under surveillance after admitting to fabricating parts of his CV.

But before members are sworn in, the House must elect a new Speaker, and this year voting in the House is sure to be anything but simple.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is up for the President’s gavel after four years as Minority Leader, and while he won the nomination in a closed-door vote at the House GOP conference in November, it’s unclear whether he locked in the 218 votes needed to win Tuesday on the House floor.

Pelosi portrait ceremony
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, right, and former Speak John Boehner, R-Ohio, attend a portrait unveiling ceremony for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California , at the US Capitols Statuary Hall on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

McCarthy met with several of his critics and allies in the president’s suite Monday night, CBS News’ Nikole Killion reports, there was no word on progress.

Killion pointed out that outgoing President Nancy Pelosi’s name has been officially removed from the office nameplate.

Faced with opposition from some members of the conference’s right flank, McCarthy made a number of concessions in an effort to secure their votes. But his attempts to appease some of his GOP colleagues appear to have been unsuccessful, as McCarthy still faces resistance from at least nine House Republicans who have said his promises fall short.

“At this stage, it is not surprising that the vague expressions of hope reflected in too many crucial points still under debate are insufficient,” nine MPs and elected officials wrote in a statement. letter on Sunday. “This is especially true when it comes to Mr. McCarthy’s bid for president, because the times call for a radical break with the status quo – not a continuation of past and ongoing Republican failures.”

McCarthy’s pledges, the group lamented, come “almost impossibly late to address lingering shortcomings before the opening of the 118th Congress.”

The California Republican laid out his promises to his reelected and incoming GOP colleagues in a letter over the weekend, in which he pledged, among other things, to help trigger a vote to remove the president from the post, a reversal of its position on the procedure known as the motion to set aside. Under McCarthy’s plan, five Republican lawmakers can cast a vote to oust the president.

A set of rules proposed by the incoming House GOP majority — formalizing McCarthy’s compromises — also end proxy voting and remote committee work; eliminates fines for members who do not wear masks and fail to comply with security checks outside the Chamber floor; and establishes a select subcommittee on “Arming the Federal Government to Investigate the Biden Administration’s Assault on the Constitutional Rights of American Citizens.”

For House Democrats, the 118th Congress ushers in a new generation of leaderswith Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York as Party Leader, Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as Democratic Whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California as Caucus Chair.

The new class of future lawmakers includes several firsts, including Becca Balint, a Democrat who is the first congresswoman and openly gay person to represent Vermont, and Maxwell Frost, a Democrat from Florida who, at 25, is the first member of Generation Z.

There will be 156 House Republicans in the next Congress who have cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 presidential election, including incoming GOP member Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin, who attended former President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse on January 6, 2021and was photographed at the Capitol during the riot.

While the first two years of Mr. Biden’s first term have been marked by legislative packages addressing Democratic priorities and numerous bipartisan achievements, the second half of his first term is likely to bring his Capitol Hill agenda to a close. due to opposition from the GOP-led House.

The White House is also bracing for a wave of investigations mounted by Republican lawmakers, including into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s son, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and the border policies of the Biden administration.

Anita Dunn, senior adviser to Mr. Biden, said “Facing the Nation” after the midterm elections in November that the White House “has and will continue to abide by just and legitimate scrutiny,” but criticized Republicans for advancing a political agenda.

“The president is going to focus on the priorities of the American people,” she said. “And we hope that Republicans who have just suffered a substantial defeat in terms of both their expectations and what the midterm elections tend to do historically, will also listen to the American people, focus on the priorities of the American people.”

In the Senate, meanwhile, where Democrats will control 51 seats to Republicans’ 49, the enlarged majority makes it easier for Mr. Biden’s nominees to move through committees and the Senate.

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