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117th Congress convenes

Today, the House of Representatives and Senate convened the 117th Congress in-person, following months of operating remotely and voting by proxy due to COVID-19.

In the House, 433 members were sworn in—222 Democrats and 211 Republicans—giving Democrats an even narrower margin of control than the previous Congress. Two remaining seats were not sworn in. Member-elect Luke Letlow (R-LA), 41, died from COVID-19 on Dec. 29. He was set to represent the 5th Congressional District. In the New York 22nd Congressional District, the race between incumbent Rep. Anthony Bridinksi (D-NY) and former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), remained too close to call.

Three members of the House of Representatives have been tapped to serve in the Biden administration and are expected to leave Congress. Rep. Marcia Fudge has been nominated to serve as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Rep. Deb Haaland has been tapped to serve as the first native American to serve as the Secretary of the Interior. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) will become the White House Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. All three will need to be replaced once they assume their new roles. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has announced that he will not seek reelection.

In the Senate, the makeup currently stands at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. Two Senate seats in Georgia will be decided on Jan. 5 and will determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate. If Democrats win both seats, the Senate would be split down the middle with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris becoming the deciding vote. Harris’ Senate seat will be filled by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D-CA). Two Republican senators, Richard Burr (R-NC) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), have announced that they will not seek reelection following their terms.

Six new members were sworn in on Jan. 3 when the Senate convened. Bill Hagerty (R-TN); former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO); former House Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM); former House Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY); former House Representative Roger Marshall (R-KS); and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). Mark Kelly (D-AZ), who defeated former Sen. Martha (R-AZ) in a special election to fill the seat of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who died last year, was sworn in Dec. 2.

The 117th Congress is also growing in diversity, adding 121 women, including 89 Democrats and 29 Republicans. At least 105 minorities will join the House and Senate—91 Democrats and 14 Republicans. 11 Democratic LGTBQ members will join the 117th—the most ever to serve in Congress. 91 veterans will join both chambers—28 Democrats and 63 Republicans. 16 Democratic union members will also serve in the 117th.

67 new faces will join Congress in the 117th. In the House, there will be 15 new Democrats and 45 new Republicans, and, in the Senate, there will be 3 new Democrats and 4 new Republicans. As letter carriers know, building and maintaining relationships in the district/state is pivotal to a successful legislative agenda. This is especially important for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

“The 2020 elections have narrowed the margins of control in both chambers, which means that bipartisanship and compromise will be critical to accomplishing our goals this Congress,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

In the coming weeks, we will know more about the next Congress, including key committee assignments and short-and-long-term priorities, which will certainly include continued interest in the Postal Service due to the pandemic and recent elections.

COVID-19 has complicated how Congress is operating and engaging with constituents, shifting almost exclusively to virtual meetings, which means NALC members should rely on district office engagement virtually. Please contact your legislative and political organizer to determine the best way to engage and respond to your members of Congress in this new virtual environment and continue to monitor the Government Affairs news section for updates.