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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The House will come to order.
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Yes, it is 2021, a brand-new year. And yes, today, a new Congress is sworn in - the 117th, to be exact. And one of the first orders of business this week should be to certify the election results of a brand-new president. And yet the current president and his loyalists in Congress are still looking back. Joining us is our national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
Good morning, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy New Year, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Happy New Year to you, too. It is not an inconsequential group. Eleven Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz, are going to object to the certification process, which we should say is normally a formality. Because some GOP folks in the House will do that, too, that means this process gets delayed. But the objections won't keep Biden from taking the oath of office on January 20, will it?
LIASSON: No, there are not enough Republicans to stop his election. Mitch McConnell wanted to avoid the situation in the Senate where members are going to have to choose between voting with the president and his baseless claims that the election was fraudulent and voting to overturn millions and millions of votes that were cast in a free and fair election, at least according to many, many judges who have looked at the evidence of this. So this is a pretty inauspicious beginning to the year. The Senate also just voted to override the president's defense bill.
We don't know whether - what will be the long-term consequences of this move to undermine the democratic election. It certainly is seen as a free vote by some of these Republicans since it won't succeed, and it has caused pretty deep divisions. You've got Mitt Romney saying that it's an egregious ploy that may enhance the political ambition of some, but it dangerously threatens our democratic republic. Ben Sasse also objects to this. He called it a dangerous plot. He said adults don't point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government. So this is a pretty big deal. We should say Mike Pence has welcomed this. He has said that he welcomes the efforts of GOP senators to question the election.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, the GOP fighting amongst themselves. And I should say we reached out to 11 senators - those 11 senators to come on the show. And they either said no or did not respond. So why are they doing this?
LIASSON: Well, some of them are planning runs for president themselves in 2024. They want to make sure that they can keep the loyalty of the Trump-oriented base of the party. Some of them are up for election in 2022. They don't want to get a primary challenge stoked by President Trump. So a lot of this is about political ambition and the base of the Republican Party, which right now is in favor of overturning a free and fair democratic election.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. This new Congress is being sworn in today. Will the 117th Congress look much different from the old one?
LIASSON: Yes, it will. There will be fewer Democrats in the House. They have a razor-thin majority now. It's the closest margin in decades. Democrats lost about a dozen seats. There will be more Republican women in the House. They were at historic lows before this election. They're feeling emboldened about getting the majority back in 2022. Today's swearing-in will not look normal or typical because of COVID restrictions. It will take a much, much longer time because of social distancing rules.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And a vote scheduled today on whether to return Nancy Pelosi to be the speaker of the House. Will she gavel again?
LIASSON: Yes. There's no sign that she will be defeated. She doesn't seem to have a challenger. She certainly was wrong about the last election. She thought the Democrats would gain seats. They lost seats. Of course, Republicans also thought they'd lost seats. But yes, Nancy Pelosi is widely expected to be voted to be the speaker again.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And yet over this entire thing is this big question mark. We don't know who's going to be controlling the Senate.
LIASSON: We don't know who's going to be controlling the Senate because we don't know the results of the runoff elections in Georgia that will take place on Tuesday. So far, there - they've had record turnout in the runoffs. Three million Georgia voters have cast their ballots early. A lot of them are from Democratic areas. But we've seen this movie before, where, sometimes, Democrats turn out their voters early or by mail, and then Republicans turn out their voters in great numbers on election day.
But we - one of the big questions is whether Donald Trump's attacks on the Georgia election will have an effect. He said that the election was fraudulent. He's even called the two Senate races, quote, "illegal and invalid." He's asked - called for the Republican governor of Georgia to resign. So will that kind of rhetoric undermine the enthusiasm of Republican voters? Why should they vote in an election that the president himself says is corrupt? We don't know that. Polling is sparse there. We don't have a sense of who's leading. It seems to be very, very close.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
Thank you very much.
LIASSON: You're welcome.
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