Monday morning news – January 4, 2021

117th Congress convenes, Pelosi reelected as speaker » AUDIO: [Gavel]

A new U.S. Congress is now officially in session. 

AUDIO: Pursuant to the Constitution to the 20th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States for the meeting of the 117th Congress of the United States, the House will come to order [gavel strike]

Congress convened Sunday, swearing in lawmakers. Both chambers opened at noon, as required by law, but with strict COVID-19 protocols.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold onto the gavel for at least two more years. Members reelected her to the post on Sunday. 

But she’ll have her work cut out for her with the slimmest Democratic House majority in decades—222-to-211. 

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the session in the upper chamber, not knowing how much longer he’ll be the majority leader. 

MCCONNELL: We gavel in today like 116  have gaveled in before us with plenty of disagreements and policy differences within our ranks, but all swearing the same oath to support and defend the same Constitution. 

Tomorrow’s double runoff election in Georgia will decide control of the U.S. Senate. 

Group of GOP senators to challenge certification of presidential election » Meantime, a growing number of Republican lawmakers continue to call the results of November’s presidential election into question. 

Sen. Ted Cruz is leading a group of 11 senators and senators-elect in support of President Trump’s continuing push to challenge the results. Cruz said in light of election fraud allegations, the lawmakers will attempt to stop Congress from certifying the election.  

CRUZ: We will together object to certification in order to force the appointment of an emergency electoral commission to perform an emergency audit of the election results to assess these claims of fraud. 

But critics say courts have already assessed the claims and have widely rejected them. 

And several GOP senators have signed a statement saying the election is over and “it’s time to move forward.” 

The Electoral College officially affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory last month. Congress is scheduled to certify those results on Wednesday.

COVID-19 deaths top 350,000 in U.S. » More than 350,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19. And officials expect that number to swell along with the total case count after holiday gatherings.

The arrival of a new, more contagious strain of the virus in the United States could also fuel the surge. 

But the government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told ABC’s This Week

FAUCI: Some little glimmer of hope is that in the last 72 hours, they’ve gotten 1.5 million doses into people’s arms, which is an average of about 500,000 a day, which is much better than the beginning when it was much, much less than that. 

The vaccine rollout has been slower and bumpier than expected. But Fauci said as the immunization push picks up steam, he believes vaccinating 100 million Americans in 100 days is an achievable goal. 

He also said existing vaccines appear to be effective against the new variant of the virus. 

British prime minister warns of tougher lockdowns » Across the Atlantic, the British government is still scrambling to contain that new strain of the coronavirus. Infection rates there have surged to their highest recorded levels.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Sunday officials may have to order stricter lockdowns. He told the BBC…

JOHNSON: It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country. I’m fully, fully reconciled to that. And I bet the people of this country are reconciled to that. 

But he said he still expects conditions to improve heading into the spring. 

The U.K. has recorded 50,000 new infections per day over the past six days.

According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, the U.K. is alternating with Italy as the hardest-hit European nation.

Singer Gerry Marsden dies » MUSIC: [You’ll Never Walk Alone]

Singer Gerry Marsden has died. Mardsen was lead singer of the 1960s British group Gerry and the Pacemakers, which turned out hits like “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

MUSIC: [You’ll Never Walk Alone]

Marsden’s family said he died Sunday “after a short illness in no way connected with COVID-19.” He was 78 years old.

(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during the first session of the 117th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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