Just the Facts

Five Facts on the First Day of Congress

By No Labels
January 3, 2019 | Blog

Today marked the first day of the 116th Congress. Here are five facts about what happened on day one.

New members were sworn in.

Newly elected senators participated in a more ritualistic entrance, where they were escorted down the aisle by either their state’s other senator or their predecessor before taking their oath. The House of Representatives enjoys a slightly less formal decorum. Members-elect are permitted to bring non-adult children onto the floor during swearing in, and the visitor galleries allow friends and family to cheer for their member-elect.

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected speaker of the House.

The House of Representatives voted on its new speaker after new members were sworn in. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi won with 220 votes over California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who received 192 votes. The vote for speaker occurred during roll call, where each member-elect stated who they were voting for, or if they were voting present. Speaker Pelosi gave a speech after accepting the position, where she discussed priorities for the 116th Congress. Senate leadership was decided prior to January 3, where Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were re-elected as majority leader and minority leader, respectively.

Not all representatives voted for the nominees for speaker.

Twelve Democrats voted for someone other than Pelosi for speaker, while three members voted present. Notably, a “present” vote does not count towards or against the election of a speaker candidate, but it contributes towards the minimum number of members required in attendance for the House to elect a speaker. Republican McCarthy also saw dissenters, as five Republican members voted for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and one member voted for libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). Jordan voted for McCarthy.

The House of Representatives voted on a rules package.

After members-elect were sworn in and the speaker was elected, the House voted on a rules package, which outlines how the House of Representatives will conduct its business over the next two years. This year’s rules package contains several notable reforms, including measures to decentralize leadership power, encourage more bipartisan legislation in the House, and outline Democratic priorities such as climate change and defending the Affordable Care Act. The rules package also includes a provision called PAYGO, which requires new spending to be matched with other cuts or increases in government revenue. The House approved the Democratic package 234-197. Notably, Problem Solvers Caucus co-chair Tom Reed and fellow Republicans and Problem Solvers Caucus Members John Katko of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania reached across party lines, voting yes on the rules package.

The House will vote on a government funding bill.

One of the first agenda items for the new House is a vote on a funding bill in an effort to reopen the government, which has been in partial shutdown since December 21. This vote comes on the heels of congressional leaders Pelosi’s and Schumer’s release Monday of a proposed spending package. The package to reopen the government includes temporary funding for the Department of Homeland Security and an allocation of $1.3 billion towards border security. President Trump and congressional leaders also met Wednesday in the White House Situation Room to discuss a possible deal over wall funding. The Situation Room, CBS News reports, is used for meetings involving highly classified material, and negotiations are closed to the press.


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