On January 7, the House and Senate certified Joe Biden’s presidential victory, paving the way for a transition of power on January 20, Inauguration Day. Vice President Mike Pence presided over a joint session of Congress that began the morning of January 6 that was interrupted by insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol seeking to prevent the certification. After hours of disruption, Congress resumed their work and concluded the certification process in the early hours of January 7.
On January 6, Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock were announced victorious in their respective Georgia Senate run-off races, securing a slim Democratic majority of the Senate. Rev. Warnock defeated incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), and Ossoff defeated incumbent David Perdue (R-GA). With the Senate now comprised of 50 members of each party, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will issue any tie-breaking votes. Despite the narrow margins, Democratic control of both chambers of Congress will be helpful to President-elect Biden as he works to advance specific issues, such as additional coronavirus relief legislation, immigration reform, and Pell Grant and student debt policies. CGS has updated the 2020 Election Map tracker to include the recent Democratic wins and the new makeup of the incoming Congress.
Also, on January 3, the 117th Congress was officially gaveled into session, and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was re-elected Speaker of the House for the fourth time. Speaker Pelosi swore in the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including 59 freshman members. She will preside over the lower chamber for at least the next two years. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was elected Majority Leader, and Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was elected Minority Leader. The 117th Congress is the most gender-diverse Congress yet with 122 women and is made up of 222 Democrat and 211 Republican Members.
Federal Judge Blocks EO on Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping
Miguel Cardona Poised to Become Biden’s Secretary of Education
Cardona began and has maintained his career as an elementary school teacher, principal, district administrator and assistant superintendent, and adjunct professor before being named Connecticut’s state education commissioner in 2019 by Governor Ned Lamont. The Senate must confirm Cardona for the Secretary position, a vote that is expected to pass with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris set to cast the deciding vote if there is a 50-50 tie.
CGS looks forward to working with the Biden administration and nominee Cardona on policies that will bolster graduate education and research. On November 18, CGS joined the higher education community on a letter to the Biden administration’s transition team detailing regulatory priorities for higher education, including Title IX reform, preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, protections for international students, and more.
Legal Battles on DACA Continue
A court decision to invalidate the program would impact roughly 650,000 DREAMers who are granted the right to live, work, and study at institutions of higher education in the U.S. through the program. In December 2020, a federal court ruled that the program be maintained and returned to its original scope. However, the outcome of the ongoing case could block DACA during the transition of the incoming administration or force the federal government to terminate the program entirely. Both the plaintiffs and the defendants have requested a summary judgement in their respective favors rather than a full trial. Judge Hanen has not yet indicated a timeline for his decision.