117 Congress may offer some surprises due to the pandemic

Some college games are canceled. The NFL is struggling to finish its regular season without canceling a game. People celebrated holiday parties on Zoom.

Yet the 117th Congress begins Sunday at 12:00 p.m., Eastern Time. The Constitution stipulates this. And everyone needs to be there in person.

The House and Senate sat during most holidays during the concluding of the 116th Congress. Legislators whistled with a strike by the government. Finally completes a COVID lighting package. The House violated President Trump’s veto over the annual defense bill and, at the request of the President, passed a $ 2,000 direct stimulus bill just after Christmas.

There was a time earlier this month when Steny Hoyer (D-MD), leader of the majority of the House, aimed to settle everything on December 11 so that members could go home and be quarantined, time could spend with their families, be quarantined again, and return to Washington on January 3 after complying with DC’s health guidelines.

But every pantomime to try to comply with local health conditions remotely went out the window this month, according to the Congressional schedule. And so everyone in the House of Representatives has been back and forth between their districts several times over the past few weeks.

The Capitol’s attending physician’s office sent a remark a few days ago that Congress’ Spouses or children accompanying the member may need to show a copy of their COVID test before the trip to businesses staying or other. services extended ‘if they go to DC for opening day.


The opening day is usually a very festive affair with receptions in the office offices and thousands of family and friends descending on the Capitol. The House is keeping this year’s event as low as possible. First-year members receive only one ticket for a guest to view the ceremonies of the gallery. The House will not issue any guest tickets to returning members.


In a memorandum from the house sergeant Paul Irving and the attending physician, dr. Brian Monahan, it is said that guests accompanying freshmen must be in quarantine before traveling to DC and do a COVID test three to five days in advance. Note that the memo just went out this week. Lawmakers have been warned that access to the house floor “is restricted to members who plan to speak during the debate.”

The start of the new Congress is inherently messy in a pandemic. The House of Representatives implemented ‘distance voting’ in the spring. This is where the House has allowed members with high risk, quarantine, positive testing or caring for someone who is ill to call in their voice. The House will eventually vote on a new ‘package of arrangements’ to launch the new Congress, which will include a remote voting option. But in the House, you cannot pass rules from the 116th Congress to the 117th Congress.

That’s why everyone has to show up on the afternoon of January 3rd.

This poses an interesting, ethical question:

Is it appropriate that members who tested positive, were quarantined or exposed, be present on January 3rd?

This is what you can expect in the House on January 3:

Nothing formed the House at that time. There is no speaker. House Clerk Cheryl Johnson is chairman. The first thing is a quorum call to get everyone there – pandemic style.

Under normal circumstances, all 435 elected members of the House would enter the room to vote electronically and record their presence. But during the coronavirus, the House will invite members to the rooms in seven groups of about 72 people. The first part begins with Rep Alma Adams (D-NC) and runs through Rep Michael Cloud (R-TX). The seventh and final group ranges from Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC) to Rep Lee Zeldin (R-NY).

Members are instructed to report to the room, record their presence and leave.

The house should start with 433 members and two vacancies: 222 Democrats and 211 Republicans. The vacancies are from the 22nd District in New York and the 5th District in Louisiana. There is still no race in the match between the current Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) and the former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) no. In Louisiana, re-voter Luke Letlow (R-LA) is dying from coronavirus-related complications.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated that she will sit down for the election of Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) following her six-vote victory over Democrat Rita Hart. But Hart asked the Home Administration to investigate the outcome of the match.

It can get interesting here.

Reps Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) recently tested positive for coronavirus. It is unclear whether they will be healthy enough to appear on the opening day. And it is unknown whether other lawmakers or those elected to the 117th Congress will be present or not.

You take the field on January 3rd with the players you have available. Therefore, it is possible in the time of a pandemic – possible – that if Republicans do not have the right numbers, – could – actually has the majority.

We always say it’s about math. It’s about math. It’s about math. Well, the math really matter on January 3rd. Whichever side has the most members on January 3rd is in majority.


Is there a way around this? Unclear. It can be argued that Democrats can drag out the initial quorum call with the start of the new Congress as long as it takes (days?) Until they have enough people there. But that’s just speculation.

The only thing that really matters on which side are more votes is the following: the election of the Speaker. Nothing can happen in the house until he elects a speaker.


And anything can happen during a pandemic. Even Pelosi said that her enemy in the Speaker’s race is COVID.

The successful Speaker candidate secures an absolute majority of the entire House. Not most votes. So if the house starts at 433 members and everyone is there, Pelosi should have 217 members voting for her. So if the Democrats are at 222 and everyone shows up, the Speaker can only lose five votes. Pelosi lost 15 votes in the January 2019 Speaker contest.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) voted present in 2019. But Cooper now says he will vote for Pelosi. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) voted ‘present’ in 2019. Slotkin says she can not support Pelosi. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Jared Golden (D-ME) voted for Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) two years ago.

Therefore, some wondered if it would be possible for the House to elect minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) or someone other than Speaker?

This is unlikely, but it comes down to math.

What if no candidate gets 217 votes? The House continues to vote until it elects a Speaker. A vote for the Speaker has not been for a second vote since 1923. Frederick Gillett (R-MA) finally got the fourth vote.

The House burned two months and 133 ballots in 1856 before finally deciding Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts was fit to be Speaker.

We only know that it will take a long time to complete it all. But we are advised that Sunday can be a very long day. And a confusing day, possibly with pandemic-induced surprises.