House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the only woman to serve as speaker, was reelected by a narrow margin in a closely divided House. The final vote was 216 for Pelosi and 209 for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Democrats are poised to have the slimmest House majority of either party in 20 years, beginning the session with a 222-to-211 advantage.

“As we are sworn in today, we accept a responsibility as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced. We begin the new Congress during a time of extraordinary difficulty,” said Pelosi, who spoke of the twin crises of pandemic deaths and economic loss.

She then swore in members of the House. Vice President Pence had administered the oath to 32 senators earlier in the day.

Shadowing the proceedings was the effort by dozens of Republicans to subvert the outcome of the election of Joe Biden as the next president, a move forcefully rejected by former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

Here’s what to know …
  • As President Trump perpetuates baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, a growing coalition of Republican senators announced plans to rebel against Senate leaders by seeking to block formal certification of Biden’s victory on Wednesday in a joint session of Congress. The effort — all but certain to fail — is dividing Republicans.
  • Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation, in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims.
  • Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris traveled to Savannah, Ga., to campaign for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Ossoff is trying to unseat Sen. David Perdue (R), while Warnock faces Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) in Tuesday’s runoff elections, which will decide the Senate majority.
  • Ryan excoriated congressional efforts to challenge Biden’s win, warning that promoting the notion of an illegitimate result strikes “at the foundation of our republic.”
  • Election results are under attack. Here are the facts.
12:35 a.m.
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Rep. Mo Brooks says more than 50 Republicans back his move to challenge Biden’s win

Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.), who is leading the House GOP effort to challenge Biden’s win, says more than 50 Republicans are backing the move that has divided the party and is all but certain to fail.

“The only count I have is one that Jim Jordan and I have put together that reflects how many congressmen have said that they’re going to both vote to sustain objections and co-sponsor objections. And right now, that count is well in excess of 50,” Brooks told reporters Sunday.

The House and the Senate will meet in a joint session Wednesday to count the duly certified votes from each state in which Biden defeated Trump, 306 electoral votes to 232. Brooks says Trump won, embracing the president’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Brooks faces opposition from several conservatives as well as Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican.

In a memo to her colleagues, Cheney summarized court decisions in the six contested states rejecting the various claims of electoral malfeasance.

“Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress,” Cheney said. “This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans.”

Asked about Cheney, Brooks said, “The challenge that Liz Cheney has is she’s arguing from a very weak position. Both historically, and legally, and for that matter, facts.”

12:00 a.m.
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Rep. Chip Roy forces vote on seating House members from 6 battleground states where Trump falsely claimed vote was rigged

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) objected to the swearing-in of House members from the six battleground states where Trump has falsely claimed that the vote was rigged, forcing the House to vote on whether the lawmakers who shared the ballot with the president and won their races should take the oath.

Roy, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, opposes efforts by several House Republicans to object to Biden’s win when Congress counts the electoral college vote on Wednesday. In a statement earlier Sunday, he and several other Republicans argued that states determine the results of their elections, not Congress.

Roy objected to seating the House delegations from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, leading to a vote on authorizing the speaker to swear in members.

“It would confound reason if the presidential results of these states were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped public scrutiny,” Roy said in a statement.

With his move, Roy ensured that Republicans who vowed to challenge Biden’s win will be on record certifying the election results in their own races in the six states, an acknowledgment that the elections were legitimate along with Biden’s wins.

The vote to authorize the speaker to swear in new members was 371 to 2.

11:56 p.m.
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Trump ally Nunes in line for Presidential Medal of Freedom

Trump on Monday is expected to award Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, according to someone familiar with the plans.

Nunes is a close ally of the president and one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in his quest to undermine the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

During an interview with “Fox & Friends” in October 2018, Trump criticized the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and praised Nunes, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who had repeatedly accused FBI and Justice Department investigators of bias against Trump. In the Fox News interview, Trump initially — and incorrectly — called for Nunes to receive the Medal of Honor, which is awarded for acts of military valor, before correcting himself and suggesting that Nunes receive the Medal of Freedom.

11:24 p.m.
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‘Our most urgent priority’ is to defeat coronavirus, Pelosi says upon reelection as speaker

In her first floor speech after being reelected as House speaker, Pelosi struck a somber tone, focusing on the responsibility facing lawmakers amid a pandemic.

“Our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus. And defeat it, we will,” Pelosi, 80, told members of the House, calling the responsibility facing lawmakers “as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced.”

She made note of the 20 million coronavirus infections and 350,000 deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic, “each one a sadness that we carry in our hearts.”

“With President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, the House will continue our work to save lives and livelihoods, to ‘Build Back Better’ in a way that advances justice in America,” she said.

Pelosi also hailed the diversity of the new House, pointing to the “record-shattering 122 women” who will be sworn in, “100 years after women won the right to vote.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the only woman to serve as speaker, was reelected on Jan. 3 by a narrow margin in a closely divided House. (Reuters)

And she announced that she is establishing a bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, to address the country’s widening wealth gap.

Before swearing Pelosi into office, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the dean of the House, made an appeal for bipartisanship, telling Pelosi, “You will be the speaker of the House, not of the party.”

“It’s time we hold hands and talk to one another,” said Young, who is known for his often physically combative style and once reportedly held a knife to the throat of then-Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

Young, who is also recovering from the virus, invited Pelosi to “sit down and have a drink” with lawmakers from across the aisle whenever negotiations get tough.

Pelosi replied that she doesn’t drink but would be glad to sit down for ice cream.

10:47 p.m.
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Biden adviser says recording of Trump’s call with Georgia official is ‘irrefutable proof’ of president’s efforts to ‘fabricate’ vote count

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden’s transition team, on Sunday denounced Trump’s efforts to pressure Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation, in which Trump threatened Raffensperger with vague criminal consequences and at one point warned the Georgia secretary of state that he was taking “a big risk” if he refused to comply.

“We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” Bauer said in a statement. “It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.”

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, soon to be the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also criticized Trump’s call with Raffensperger, calling it “more than a pathetic, rambling, delusional rant.”

“His disgraceful effort to intimidate an elected official into deliberately changing and misrepresenting the legally confirmed vote totals in his state strikes at the heart of our democracy and merits nothing less than a criminal investigation,” Durbin said in a statement. “The President is unhinged and dangerous.”

Durbin added that Senate Republicans and others who are supporting Trump’s actions “are putting the orderly and peaceful transition of power in our nation at risk.”

10:22 p.m.
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Rep. Cheney pushes back against Senate GOP effort to form electoral commission

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican leader in the House, circulated a 21-page memo Sunday directly rebutting the case made by the 11 senators a day earlier for an electoral commission to audit results in certain states won by Biden.

In the memo, Cheney also summarized court decisions in the six contested states rejecting the various claims of electoral malfeasance.

“Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress,” Cheney said. “This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans.”

Earlier Sunday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) also criticized the idea of a commission, arguing that it has “zero chance of becoming reality” and noting that Republican senators would face a high bar for providing evidence to back up their allegations of fraud.

10:17 p.m.
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All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory

Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld are the 10 living former U.S. secretaries of defense.

As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.

American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.

Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.

9:29 p.m.
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Pelosi reelected speaker in closely divided House

Pelosi was reelected speaker Sunday in a House contest marked by the absences of several lawmakers who have contracted the coronavirus.

The 80-year-old California Democrat, the only woman in history to serve as speaker, secured what might be her last two-year term in the top post. She won with 216 votes to 209 for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Pelosi will lead a razor-thin Democratic majority in the House, with Democrats controlling 222 seats to the GOP’s 211, with two vacancies.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers defected during Sunday’s vote. Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) voted for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) to serve as speaker; Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.) voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.); and Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.) and Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) voted present.

In the past 34 years, only two lawmakers — Pelosi and former congressman J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) — have won a fourth term as House speaker. Hastert’s four terms were consecutive; Pelosi’s are not.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a liberal who has been critical of Pelosi, said Sunday that she voted for the California Democrat because the alternative — a GOP speakership — would have been unacceptable.

“We are just an extremely slim amount of votes away from risking the speakership to the Republican Party, and this is — it’s bigger than any one of us, and that is consequential,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez also sharply criticized Trump’s efforts in a Saturday phone call to pressure Raffensperger to overturn Biden’s election win in Georgia.

“I absolutely think it’s an impeachable offense, and if it was up to me, there would be articles on the floor quite quickly. … He is attacking our very election,” she said.

8:47 p.m.
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‘Joe Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate:’ Former House speaker Paul Ryan denounces congressional effort to subvert election outcome

Former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) excoriated congressional efforts to challenge Biden’s win, warning that perpetuating the notion of an illegitimate result strikes “at the foundation of our republic.”

In a statement Sunday, Ryan said it was difficult to to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans. The fact that this effort will fail does not mean it will not do significant damage to American democracy.”

Ryan, who has largely steered clear of the political fray since retiring at the end of his term in January 2019, said the Trump campaign has had many opportunities in the courts to challenge the election results and those cases have failed to produce evidence of voter fraud.

Ryan also highlighted that the Justice Department found nothing to warrant overturning the election results.

“If states wish to reform their processes for future elections, that is their prerogative. But Joe Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate,” Ryan said.

8:19 p.m.
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Clyburn says Democrats can win both Georgia runoff elections — if the party learns from its loss in S.C.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Sunday that he thought Georgia Democrats could win the Senate runoffs if they make sure they get their voters to the polls on Tuesday.

Clyburn said Democrat Jaime Harrison lost his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) because “we did not do the groundwork that was necessary to win on Election Day.”

“I do believe we can win in Georgia, and I believe the only difference we need to make between Georgia and South Carolina is to win on Election Day,” Clyburn said during a Zoom conversation with the Journal-isms Roundtable, a group of journalists who meet monthly to discuss race and current events.

Democrats are trying to unseat Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who were forced into runoffs because they failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 3. Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, and Raphael Warnock, a Baptist pastor, have outraised their opponents, and turnout has been strong among Democratic-leaning groups in mail-in and early in-person voting.

Throughout the South Carolina contest, Harrison outraised Graham, who at one point was pleading for contributions on Fox News shows, and polls showed a close race. In the end, Graham won by more than 10 percentage points.

Harrison’s internal campaign data showed him going into the general election “in the lead big time,” Clyburn said, but “on Election Day, we got outvoted. Beyond television, you’ve got to do the canvassing. We did not do the canvassing.”

Clyburn said his political organization is in Georgia, working with Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) to shore up the Democrats’ ground game. He also said that Harrison is sharing what he learned from the experience with Ossoff’s and Warnock’s campaigns.

“I think they’re gonna get it right in Georgia,” Clyburn said. “I think we’ve got an even chance of winning both of those seats. And if I were to go on my own emotions, I do think that Warnock is in very, very good position to win.”

8:12 p.m.
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In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor

Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation, in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”

Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected the president’s assertions, explaining that Trump is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that Biden’s 12,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.

7:51 p.m.
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House begins speaker vote as Democrats nominate Pelosi and Republicans nominate McCarthy

The House began its vote for speaker Sunday afternoon after Democrats nominated Pelosi and Republicans nominated their party’s leader in the chamber, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) nominated Pelosi for Democrats, while Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) nominated McCarthy for Republicans.

“Nancy Pelosi believes in the power of American exceptionalism,” said Jeffries, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “Nancy Pelosi believes in the goodness of the American people. Nancy Pelosi believes that our diversity is our strength and that our unity is our power.”

He listed Pelosi’s achievements during the 116th Congress, hailing her as a “voice for the voiceless,” a “notorious negotiator” and a resilient leader who “held the president accountable, because no one is above the law.”

Cheney, the chair of the House Republican conference, opened her remarks by thanking Jeffries and asking for members to remember the late Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) and the son of Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), Thomas Bloom Raskin, who died last week.

She praised McCarthy as a leader who “knows firsthand that our small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and that government is more often the problem than the solution.”

“He will never compromise our fundamental rights and freedoms,” Cheney said, adding that McCarthy “ensured that we were united as we successfully fought the unconstitutional and partisan impeachment effort launched by our Democrat colleagues.”

7:13 p.m.
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House members exposed to coronavirus to vote from inside secure plexiglass enclosure, prompting GOP outrage

House officials have transformed a corner of the upper public gallery usually reserved for wheelchair access to House events, inserting a plexiglass shield around the area from which a handful of members exposed to the coronavirus will cast their votes Sunday.

The lawmakers will be high above the rest of the House, but to get there, they will have to be brought through many areas open to other staff and lawmakers — prompting outrage from some Republicans.

Brian P. Monahan, attending physician of the U.S. Congress, said the secure enclosure was erected under the direction of his office and the House sergeant at arms “to allow Members who are in quarantine status to fulfill their Constitutional duties.”

Monahan added that federal guidelines permit essential workers to continue to work after being exposed to covid-19 “provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.”

“The highest possible safeguards have been implemented including separate, enhanced ventilation in this space and separate holding facilities for any Members utilizing Gallery 4,” he said. “This step will only be necessary until proxy voting resumes as an option for impacted Members.”

According to a Capitol official, three lawmakers — two Democrats and one Republican — are using the facility Sunday. The three are in quarantine status, which includes a recent negative coronavirus test, said the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, accused Pelosi of building the plexiglass seal for exposed members to vote so that she can win the vote for House speaker.

Davis and Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) confronted Monahan about the structure.

“The whole point is, this brings dishonor on the entire institution. We’re going to make this happen so that Nancy Pelosi can be speaker. That’s all this is,” Herrera Beutler said.

Davis said: “The lack of communication with the minority makes this 100 percent political.”

The Republicans said they do not know the identity of the GOP lawmaker exposed to the virus.

6:39 p.m.
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‘The 2020 election is over:’ Bipartisan group of 10 senators call on Congress to certify Biden’s win

A bipartisan group of 10 senators is rejecting challenges to Biden’s win and delivering a message to Republican colleagues echoing Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud: “The 2020 election is over.”

In a joint statement, the senators — five Democrats, four Republicans and one independent — said further efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election “are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results.”

“The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results,” they wrote. “In two weeks, we will begin working with our colleagues and the new Administration on bipartisan, common sense solutions to the enormous challenges facing our country. It is time to move forward.”

The House and the Senate meet in a joint session Wednesday to count the electoral votes. Dozens of Republicans, including a growing coalition in the Senate, plan to challenge the duly certified results from the battleground states — a move all but certain to fail.

The four Republicans who joined in the statement rejecting such a move were Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

In the House, seven Republicans rejected the growing challenge to Biden’s win.

“The text of the Constitution is clear. States select electors. Congress does not,” the lawmakers said in a statement. The group included some of the more conservative members in the House, such as Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Ken Buck (Colo.) and Chip Roy (Tex.).

They said they swore an oath to the Constitution “above our policy goals. We must count the electoral votes submitted by the states.”