Government affairs

Legislative Updates

118th Congress convenes

On Jan 3, the 118th Congress convened. While senators were sworn in that day, members of the House did not take their oaths of office until the early morning hours of Jan. 7. The four-day delay came after House Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, could not reach the number of votes needed to elect a speaker of the House.

After 14 rounds of voting, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was finally elected as speaker on the fifteenth ballot, after persuading enough holdout Republicans to either support him with a vote or vote present, bringing down the threshold of votes needed to win the election.

In all 15 rounds of voting, House Democrats unanimously voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who was sworn in as the minority leader.

434 members were sworn in, including 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats. This includes 75 freshman members, 40 of whom are Republicans and 35 Democrats. Following the death of Donald McEachin (D-VA) last November, one seat is currently vacant in the House.

On the Republican side, Speaker McCarthy will lead the party with Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson (R-LA).

Minority Leader Jeffries will lead House Democrats alongside Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA), Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC).

After electing a speaker, the first order of business in the House was to adopt a new rules package (H. Res. 5) for the 118th Congress. On Jan. 9, with a 220-213 vote, the House approved a rules package, which included some notable changes.

Under the newly approved package, a single member of the House majority can force a vote to oust the speaker, a concession that Speaker McCarthy eventually made after initial opposition.

The package takes away collective bargaining rights for House staffers, a measure that was approved last year. It also eliminates proxy voting and remote committee proceedings, which started at the onset of the pandemic. Additionally, it reinstates a rule that requires a three-fifths supermajority for any piece of legislation that would increase the federal income tax rate, and it extends the minimum time from when a bill is reported and then called to the House floor from 24 hours to 72 hours.

The rules package also renames the committee that has oversight of the Postal Service. The committee is now the Oversight and Accountability Committee, formerly the Committee on Oversight and Reform. James Comer (R-KY) will serve as chairman of the committee, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) will serve as the ranking member.

Following the passage of the rules package, House Republicans moved ahead with other top priorities, which included the passage of the Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act. This bill, which passed with a 221-210 vote, would repeal billions of dollars in funding for the Internal Revenue System (IRS), which passed as part of the Inflation Reduction Act last year. The bill is unlikely to be considered in the Senate.

Other priorities include establishing two new select committees, the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

In the Senate on Jan. 3, 34 senators were sworn in for their newly elected terms. Seven new senators were sworn in, including five Republicans and two Democrats. Democrats hold the majority with 51 seats, including three independents who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans hold the remaining 48 seats, with one seat vacant after the resignation of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen is expected to appoint someone to the vacant seat. 

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will continue to lead Senate Democrats with Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Senate Republicans will also keep their top leaders with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD), and Conference Chair John Barrasso (R-WY).

Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) will continue to lead the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate committee with oversight of the Postal Service. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will serve as the committee’s new ranking member.

The Senate has been in recess since it convened on Jan. 3 and will return on Jan. 23.



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