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Wednesday July 28th, 2021 2:31AM

The Latest: Congress opens to swear in new members

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the new session of Congress (all times local):

12:15 p.m.

The 117th U.S. Congress is beginning as the House and Senate have gaveled in to swear in new members.

Both chambers are holding rare Sunday sessions to open the new Congress on Jan. 3, as the Constitution requires. All members of the House and roughly one-third of the Senate will be sworn in.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi was set to be reelected as House speaker by her party, which retains the majority in the House but with the slimmest margin in 20 years.

Control of the Senate is in question until Tuesday’s runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia. The outcome will determine which party holds the chamber.

___

12:05 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is declining to say much about the effort by a growing number of Republican senators to overturn the presidential election.

McConnell told a reporter Sunday at the Capitol, “We’ll be dealing with all of that on Wednesday.”

The Republican leader was referring to this week’s joint session of Congress to confirm the Electoral College tally that Joe Biden won, 306-232, defeating President Donald Trump.

McConnell has privately urged Republicans not to object to the election results. He has said it would force Republicans to essentially choose between Trump’s demands and the will of the voters.

A dozen Republican senators, and more Republicans in the House, plan to object on Wednesday.

___

11:55 a.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz says Congress has an obligation to ensure the presidential election was lawful, explaining why he and some Republican colleagues will raise objections when Congress meets this week to certify the Electoral College vote.

He tells Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures" that the aim is to restore Americans' "confidence in our electoral system."

Numerous federal and state officials have said the election was conducted fairly and without evidence of fraud on a scale so grand that it would have altered the outcome.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden defeated Republican President Donald Trump by some 7 million popular votes and 306-232 votes in the Electoral College.

Trump has refused to accept his loss and continues to falsely claim the election was “stolen.”

Groups of House and Senate Republicans plan to vote against certain state electors on Wednesday, but it will not halt Biden’s swearing-in as president at noon on Jan. 20.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW CONGRESS

Read more:

— More GOP lawmakers enlist in Trump effort to undo Biden win

— EXPLAINER: As Georgia awaits, Republicans still have Senate control

— Biden flexes Georgia muscle alongside GOP in Senate races

— Memorial held for congressman-elect who contracted COVID-19

— Senate race thrusts ‘Black America’s church’ into spotlight

___

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

11:15 a.m.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is hitting back at GOP colleagues who are criticizing his attempt to overturn the presidential election won by Joe Biden.

In a lengthy email, the Missouri Republican defended his rationale for challenging President Donald Trump’s defeat. He and other Republicans are planning to mount objections to the results when Congress convenes for a joint session Wednesday to confirm the Electoral College tally.

Hawley specifically defended himself against criticism from GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania as he challenges that state’s election results.

Hawley, a Trump ally and potential 2024 presidential candidate, insisted that constituents back home have been “loud and clear” that they believe Biden’s win over Trump was unfair.

“It is my responsibility as a senator to raise their concerns,” Hawley wrote late Saturday.

___

10:30 a.m.

Sen. Ron Johnson is insisting that the extraordinary effort by congressional Republicans to challenge Joe Biden’s presidential victory is not intended to thwart the democratic process but “to protect it.”

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Wisconsin senator pointed to an “unsustainable state of affairs” where he claimed that many people in the country don’t accept the election as legitimate. He contends that more transparency is needed to “restore confidence” in results that states and the Electoral College have certified.

A group of 11 senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas say they will reject the Electoral College results during a joint session Wednesday unless a commission is appointed to conduct a 10-day audit of the vote. They are zeroing in on the states where President Donald Trump has raised founded claims of voter fraud.

Johnson isn’t offering new evidence of voting problems. And he does acknowledge that Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Multiple lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team have been repeatedly dismissed, by the Supreme Court and by Trump-appointed judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.

When Johnson insisted that “tens of millions of people” believe the presidential election was “stolen,” NBC’s Chuck Todd suggested that Johnson “look in the mirror” as to why that is. Todd cut off Johnson’s unsubstantiated assertions.

Todd told Johnson: “You don’t get to make these allegations that haven’t been proven true.”

___

8 a.m.

The start of the new congressional session on Sunday comes during a tumultuous period in U.S. history.

A growing number of Republicans are working to overturn Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump, and a surge of coronavirus infections is imposing limits at the Capitol.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is set to be reelected as House speaker by fellow Democrats, who retain the House majority but with the slimmest margin in 20 years.

Opening the Senate could be among Mitch McConnell’s final acts as majority leader. Republican control depends on Tuesday’s runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia.

It’s often said that divided government can be a time for legislative compromises, but lawmakers are charging into the 117th Congress with the nation more torn than ever, disputing even basic facts including that Biden won the presidential election.

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