Incoming House members to convene for the first time on Sunday

US Capitol building
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

The House of Representatives will convene on January 3, with opening day proceedings for the 117th Congress altered due to the coronavirus pandemic. The date for beginning the new Congress was set by the Constitution.

The House sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol attending physician sent guidelines for the proceedings to new and returning House members, according to Roll Call, a publication that focuses on U.S. Congress. The traditional quorum call, swearing-in of new members and speaker election will be done in seven groups, significantly lengthening the day’s events. The House also may take a moment of silence to honor Luke Letlow, the congressman-elect from Louisiana who died of COVID-19 last week.

Democrats are entering the year with a smaller majority, which could affect Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bid for reelection as speaker. Democrats will start the 117th Congress with 222 members, just four over the 218 threshold needed for a majority, with a race in New York still undecided.

Some members may also be absent due to the pandemic. Congresswoman Gwen Moore and congresswoman-elect Maria Salazar are both expected to miss the proceedings after testing positive for COVID-19.

Proxy voting, which allowed for members to cast votes while not physically present at the Capitol, lapsed with the end of the last Congress. The new House will have to vote on whether to extend proxy voting. This means that anyone who is absent on Sunday will not be able to cast a vote in the speaker election.

However, Pelosi expressed confidence that she has the votes to be elected speaker, telling reporters last Monday that she would be “fine.”

The House and the Senate will meet again on January 6 to count Electoral College votes and reaffirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. This is also expected to be lengthy, as several congressional Republicans have said that they will challenge the election results.

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