Welcome to the 115th Congress!


Congress returns today from a holiday break and one of the agenda items high on Republicans’ list is to repeal Obamacare, though they haven’t yet agreed on policies to replace the law.

Fresh from an election that gave Republicans control of both the White House and Congress for the first time since 2006, lawmakers reassemble in the Capitol today to solemnly swear their oath of office, ratify rules changes and prepare for the political combat that will intensify even before Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration as the nation’s 45th president.

The GOP has majorities in the House and Senate it needs to pass such a measure. Yet lawmakers are debating delaying implementation of the repeal for two to four years, which would give them time to come up with a replacement. While President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, he has said he wants to maintain some parts, such as allowing people to remain on their parents’ plan until they turn 26 and requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Lawmakers take a brief pause from partisan conflict to celebrate the start of the 115th Congress with a parliamentary ceremony that has all the style, pomp and good cheer of a big family wedding. Swearing in day is a chance to see veterans and freshmen joined by their family and friends on the chamber floor for a festive and work day ahead.

U.S. Senate

For the last time in the 114th Congress, the Senate will meet in pro forma session at 11:55 a.m. Following adjournment, as prescribed by the Constitution, the Senate will stand in recess until noon, when the first Senate session of the 115th Congress is scheduled to begin.

The seven newly elected senators — Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Kamala Harris of California, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Republicans Todd Young of Indiana and John Kennedy of Louisiana — will take the oath of office after their election certificates are received. The 27 incumbent senators from both parties who were re-elected in November also will be sworn in.

Vice President Joe Biden as Senate president, Biden will swear in the 34 newly elected or re-elected senators today, and then on Friday he gets to preside over a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College ballots that sealed Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

U.S. House of Representatives

For the last time in the 114th Congress, the House will meet in pro forma session at 11 a.m. The House is scheduled to meet at noon to convene the first session of the 115th Congress.

The clerk of the House will call the chamber into session, lead a quorum call and preside over the election of the speaker. Watch to see if Republicans nominate or cast votes for someone other than Ryan or whether any Democrat nominates or votes for someone other than Pelosi. Members are called upon to stand and cast their votes individually when their surname is called in alphabetical order.

Following his expected election to a two-year term as speaker, Ryan will make remarks and be sworn in by Michigan Democrat John Conyers, the chamber’s longest-serving member. Then the newly re-elected speaker will administer the oath of office to his House colleagues.

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