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Nancy Pelosi reelected Speaker of the House as Congress opens new session

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., waves the gavel on the opening day of the 117th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., waves the gavel on the opening day of the 117th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.   -   Copyright  Erin Scott/Pool via AP
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Nancy Pelosi was reelected Speaker of the House on Sunday amid a tumultuous return for Congress with Democrats holding the slimmest majority in 20 years following November's election.

Pelosi said the top priority is defeating the coronavirus. And “defeat it we will,” she said to the House.

The 117th Congress convenes at a charged time in US politics with lawmakers in disagreement over a host of issues including the results of the presidential election.

A dozen Republican senators, led by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, and a number of Republicans in the House plan to object the election results when Congress meets on Wednesday to tally President-elect Joe Biden's electoral college victory over Donald Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence, who presides over the session and declares the winner, is facing growing pressure from Trump’s allies over his ceremonial role.

Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement Saturday that Pence “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections.”

Election officials across the country have said that there was no evidence fraud was committed.

Pandemic continues to tear through US

Both chambers of Congress were required to convene by law and imposed strict COVID-19 protocols amid the pandemic.

Elbow bumps replaced handshakes as senators took the oath of office. Fewer family members than usual joined lawmakers at the Capitol. Masks are required in the House chamber.

A special enclosed seating section was designed for lawmakers in COVID-19 quarantine, but testing negative for the virus.

The country recently confirmed nearly 300,000 daily coronavirus infections.

Senate runoffs to be held on Tuesday

The meeting also comes ahead of two important Senate runoffs on Tuesday that will determine which party has a majority in the upper chamber.

Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face challenges from Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Both Biden and Trump will campaign in Georgia on Monday in the high stakes election. Democrats need to win both seats in order to gain control of the Senate.