Dispatch From D.C.: New Congress Opens, Democrats Choose Pelosi As Speaker

Jan 3, 2019

The 116th Congress opened Thursday, which means Democrats are now in control of the U.S. House, while Republicans maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate. VPR's Liam Elder-Connors is there, reporting on the shift in power in Washington, D.C.

He's following Vermont's only member of the U.S. House — Democrat Rep. Peter Welch — for VPR's people-powered journalism project Brave Little State (scroll down for more on submitting a question).

Liam was there as Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi was again elected Speaker of the House and members of Congress were sworn in, and he talked to us about the atmosphere at the Capitol.

Listen to Henry Epp's conversation with Liam Elder-Connors above.

There's been a partial federal government shutdown for nearly two weeks, and Welch told VPR that the House is looking at a plan that funds most of the government until September and the Department of Homeland Security until Feburary — that way the majority of the government could remain open while Congress deals with the contentious issue of border security.

Welch said he wants that measure to move forward in the House, and that he wants the Senate to take it up as well — although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said they may not consider a bill President Donald Trump has said he'd veto.

"The president has his prerogative. He can veto a bill," Welch told VPR. "But let's have the process work and not have it stalled until Sen. McConnell gets permission in effect from the executive branch to proceed. He in the Senate, we in the House, we have our independent responsibility to act and do our best."

For now, we have to wait and see how it plays out.

For more — Follow VPR reporter Liam Elder-Connors on Twitter at @lseconnors, and vote on which question you want Brave Little State to answer in its special episode:

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Support for this reporting comes from the VPR Journalism Fund.