The balance of power between Republicans and Democrats is more even than in the previous session
The new Congress, which begins work Sunday, will have to function under more uncertainty: It is still unclear which party will control the Senate, the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives has shrunk, and Republicans plan to fight immediately against the usually routine procedure of certifying the results of presidential elections.
In the November election, Democrats lost 11 seats in the 435-seat House of Representatives, and now hold a majority of 222 seats. This reduces the room for maneuvering for Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her first task of seeking re-election.
The Senate remains under Republican control until Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia.
A group of Republican senators plans to challenge Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory in a certification proceeding Wednesday.
A more even balance of power in both chambers this year gives moderates from both parties a chance to show their political strength, especially after President Donald Trump leaves the White House on Jan. 20 and Biden, who campaigned as a centrist, takes office.
A shrinking Democratic majority and an ongoing coronavirus pandemic complicate 80-year-old Pelosi’s attempt to become speaker of the House again, though she herself and her aides are confident of success.
“I think she will get the votes,” House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said a few days ago.
The coronavirus could affect congressional attendance on Sunday. A newly elected Republican congressman died the other day from the virus, and one Democratic lawmaker tested positive. Several dozen lawmakers have been infected with the coronavirus since the spring.
Because of the virus, House members will vote in groups, which will delay the procedure. House leaders have announced that no more than 72 lawmakers will be in the chamber at a time to maintain social distance.
Republicans will have a majority in the first session of the Senate on Sunday.
The previous Senate had 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. The current ratio is 51 to 48.
Republican Senator Kelly Lefler of Georgia was appointed to replace the senator who resigned early. She retains her seat pending Tuesday’s runoff election.
However, the term of another Republican senator from Georgia, David Perdue, has expired, so he won’t know if he can take his seat again until after the election results are tallied.
If at least one of Lefler and Perdue wins, the Senate will retain a Republican majority, led by Mitch McConnell.
If the Democrats win in Georgia in both cases, the parties will split the Senate exactly in half, 50 seats to 50, and in the event of a tie vote for and against, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the final say, taking office on January 20.