Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, as the 116th Congress begins. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Latest: Democrats return Pelosi to House speaker's post

January 03, 2019 - 10:19 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the 116th Congress (all times local):

10 p.m.

Cheering Democrats have returned Nancy Pelosi to the House speaker's post as the 116th Congress ushers in a historically diverse freshman class eager to confront President Donald Trump in a new era of divided government.

Pelosi took the gavel saying U.S. voters "demanded a new dawn" in the November election that swept the Democrats to a House majority and are looking to "the beauty of our Constitution" to provide checks and balances on power.

As night fell, the House quickly got to work on the partial government shutdown, which was winding up Day 13 with Trump demanding billions in Mexican border wall funding. Democrats approved legislation to re-open the government — but without the $5.6 billion in wall money, which means it has no chance in the Republican Senate.

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7:10 p.m.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has seated two Republican women on the Senate Judiciary Committee, something he pledged to do last year after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's contentious hearings.

McConnell announced that Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn will join the panel. Blackburn is a freshman senator who was sworn in Thursday.

The Republican side of the Judiciary dais was all male in October when the panel heard allegations from a female professor who said Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her years ago. Three Democratic women sit on the committee.

Aware of the optics, McConnell said afterward he would work to appoint more women to the panel. He said he had tried before but female Republican senators hadn't been interested. He said that had been a "frustration."

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4:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Democrat Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH'-see) hours after she was sworn in as House speaker.

Trump tells reporters during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room that Pelosi's election to lead the House is "a tremendous, tremendous achievement."

The president says he's hopeful "we're going to work together" on issues such as infrastructure and more.

He says: "I think it's actually going to work out. I think it'll be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking"

Reporters had been told that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was going to be delivering a briefing on the 13th day of the partial government shutdown.

Instead, Trump appeared and spoke for the first time from the White House briefing room podium.

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3:10 p.m.

Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH'-see) called for kids to join her as she was sworn into as House speaker.

Dozens of youngsters gathered around Pelosi on the dais as she raised her right hand as took the oath of office. She's the first woman to hold the office, and now she's also the first woman to return to it.

Pelosi said on Thursday: "I now call the House to order on behalf of all of America's children."

Pelosi invited her grandchildren to come to the speaker's podium, and then said other children in the chamber were welcome to join them.

Many members of the new Congress brought their sons and daughters and grandchildren along with them for the opening day of the new Congress.

It was reminiscent of the scene eight more than a decade ago when Pelosi was first elected speaker. She had served as speaker from 2007 to 2011 before Republicans took back control of the House.

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3:05 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cited an unexpected person in her first remarks after taking the House majority. It's singer Tony Bennett, who Pelosi calls "a true American patriot."

Bennett, who marched for civil rights, was one of several people who sat in Pelosi's official speaker's box. He waved when Pelosi mentioned him.

Others on Pelosi's guest list included her family, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and Tim Gunn of the TV reality show "Project Runway."

Her guests cheered and hollered as she was sworn in and took the gavel. They laughed when the California delegation sang "California, here we come" and followed Pelosi down the center aisle.

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2:35 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH'-see) is laying out her agenda for the new Democratic majority, saying the American people have "demanded a new dawn."

In her first remarks after winning election as speaker, Pelosi says the House must fight for the middle class in way that's fair and financially sound while also protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

She says the House must also address climate change, which she calls "the existential threat of our time." The California Democrat says the American people understand the urgency of addressing global warming and "the Congress must join them."

Pelosi also says that Democrats will also pursue legislation to lower health care and prescription drug costs and work to rebuild the country with "green and modern infrastructure from sea to shining sea."

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2:30 p.m.

Fifteen Democrats have defected but it wasn't enough to keep Nancy Pelosi (puh-LOH'-see) from being elected House speaker.

The veteran Californian won the House's top post Thursday with 220 votes. That's two more than she'd have needed if all the chamber's 435 members had voted.

Pelosi got the job after an election that saw Democrats gain 40 seats in the November elections.

A significant number of her party's candidates pledged to not back her for speaker after years of Republican ads casting her as a dangerous liberal. Pelosi clinched her election last month after promising to serve no more than four more years in the job.

Of the 15 Democrats who didn't support Pelosi, 10 were incoming members. Twelve backed other Democrats and three voted "present."

GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California got 192 votes, all from Republicans.

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2 p.m.

The House has elected Nancy Pelosi as its speaker as Democrats take command of the chamber for the new Congress.

The near party-line majority vote makes her the country's most powerful Democrat as the party begins two more years of confronting President Donald Trump. Except now, Pelosi's Democrats will be able to set the House's legislative agenda and conduct investigations of the Trump administration that Republicans shunned when they held the majority.

Thursday's vote restores Pelosi to the post the Californian held from 2007 until 2011. She's the only woman to ever hold the chamber's top job.

Pelosi, of California, reclaimed the job after Democrats gained 40 seats in the November elections, their biggest pickup in four decades.

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1:20 p.m.

The Senate of the 116th Congress has been sworn in.

The new senators mingled with their colleagues and a few predecessors as they walked up to the dais in groups of four to be sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. New senators found their desks, some looking inside to see which senators had left their signatures.

The only new senator not to be sworn in was Republican Sen.-elect Rick Scott, who received permission to complete his term as Florida's governor. He will be sworn in Jan. 8, when his term ends.

Twenty-nine new and re-elected senators were sworn in. They included Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema (SIN'-uh-muh), who ran against each other. McSally lost to Sinema but was appointed to replace the late Sen. John McCain.

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