Washington Update

Election 2020 Will Bring Change to Washington

By: Meg Thompson
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Although the final results of the 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections are still being tallied, major changes will be coming to the Nation’s Capital in January. Amid an ongoing recount in Georgia and several pending lawsuits initiated by Donald Trump’s campaign, nearly all news outlets projected former Vice President Joe Biden as the winner with 306 electoral college votes. President Trump’s total currently stands at 232.

Key dates associated with the remainder of the 2020 presidential election include:

  • December 14: The electors (members of the electoral college) meet in their respective state capitals and the District of Columbia to formally vote for the president and vice president
  • January 4: The 117th Congress convenes and swears in new members elected in November
  • January 6: Electoral votes formally counted before a joint session of Congress; the President of the Senate Mike Pence formally announces the electoral result
  • January 20: Inauguration Day

The President-elect and Vice President-elect are proceeding with preparations to take office in January. Last week they unveiled a new transition website and named members of their agency review teams, or “landing parties,” to interact with current agency officials to help ensure a seamless transition on Inauguration Day. According to the Biden-Harris website, agency review teams are responsible for understanding the operations of each agency and preparing for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and their cabinet “to hit the ground running on Day One.” These teams are composed of highly experienced and talented professionals with deep backgrounds in crucial policy areas across the federal government. The teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration but also the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges.

Democrats will retain their majority in the House of Representatives even as 14 House races remain unresolved. As of November 16, the balance of power in the 117th Congress is estimated at 219 Democrats to 202 Republicans. These numbers could change as results for the remaining contests are finalized over the coming weeks. Democrats have a 232–197 majority in the current congress.

With Democrats retaining majority status, they will continue to chair House committees. Leadership of some of the committees will change as a result of retirements and election outcomes. The membership and chairmanships of House Committees will be finalized when the new Congress convenes in January.

House Democrats began the process of preparing for the new Congress by welcoming members-elect for freshmen orientation on November 12. Elections for leadership positions were held on November 18 and 19. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was re-elected House Speaker. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will continue as Majority Leader and Majority Whip, respectively.

Prior to the 2020 elections, the Senate was controlled by Republicans who held 53 seats to the Democrats’ 47 (including two Independents). Control of the Senate in the 117th Congress will depend on the outcome of two run-off elections that will be held in Georgia on January 5, 2021. Based on the election results to date, Republicans have won 50 Senate seats and Democrats 48. Should the Democratic candidates win both of the Georgia run-off contests, the Senate will be split 50-50. In that scenario, the Democrats will control the Senate given that Vice President-elect Harris would provide any tie-breaking vote.

If Republicans retain control of the Senate, they will continue to hold all committee chairmanships next year. Similar to the House, retirements and election outcomes will cause changes in the leadership of some committees and subcommittees.