The 116th Congress gaveled into session Thursday swathed in history, returning Nancy Pelosi to the House speaker's office and ushering in a diverse class of Democratic freshmen ready to confront President Trump in a new era of divided government. Pelosi was elected speaker 220-192, with 15 Democrats rejecting her, the AP reports. She vowed, in prepared remarks, "to restore integrity to government so that people can have confidence that government works for the public interest, not the special interests." The new Congress is like none other. There are more women than ever before, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans in the House is creating what academics call a reflective democracy, more aligned with the population of the United States. The Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men, and in the Senate Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.
In a nod to the moment, Pelosi, the first female speaker, was broadly pledging to make Congress work for all Americans—addressing kitchen table issues at a time of deep economic churn—even as her party is ready to challenge Trump with investigations and subpoena powers that threaten the White House agenda. It's the first new Congress to convene amid a partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day over Trump's demands for money for a wall along the US-Mexico border. The day was unfolding as one of both celebration and impatience. Newly elected lawmakers arrived, often with friends and families in tow, to take the oath of office and pose for ceremonial photos. The Democrats planned to quickly pass legislation to re-open the government, though without the funding Trump is demanding for his promised border wall, but Senate Republicans under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no plans to consider those bills unless Trump agrees to sign them into law. That ensures the shutdown will continue. (Click for more on the first day of the session.)