Live blog: The new Congress takes office, new chapter for Indian Country

ICT editorial team

Updated: 11:45 pm Eastern. This story will be updated throughout the day and into the evening. Live tweets added.

​Welcome to Washington

Indian Country Today begins its live coverage of the new Congress now. We will be posting live updates from Capitol Hill. We start with a visit to the offices of Representatives Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, D-New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, HoChunk, D-Kansas. We will also check in on the two tribal citizens now in Congress, Representatives Tom Cole, Chickasaw, R-Oklahoma, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, R-Oklahoma.

The plan.

We will post short items throughout the day with a link to official ceremonial swearing in on C-SPAN.

Congress begins its formal session at noon.

We will be at receptions honoring the new members. All four Native Americans in Congress will speak at that event along with Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, and Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota.

There is also work ahead. The new House may vote on two bills to fund the government and end the shutdown. This legislation is nearly the same as legislation the Senate passed by voice vote last month, but is now opposed by President Donald J. Trump. The president is holding out for a $5 billion appropriation for a border wall. -- Mark Trahant

Packed reception. Hundreds of well-wishers drop in to meet Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, in her new office suite, 1237 Longworth House Office Building.

A message from Rep. Sharice Davids

The office of Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, is quiet compared to Haaland's reception. Lots of people are stopping by, there are interviews, and business is being done. (Heard in the hall: "Whose office is this? Where is she from?" Followed by the whisper in the ear with all the relevant details.)

Rep. Davids had this message for Indian Country Today.


12:00 pm Eastern

We don't have Indian Country Today cameras on the House floor, but there is this CSPAN live link to the action in Congress.

The process today is for the last Congress, the 115th Congress, to meet in pro forma session. Then at noon both the House and the Senate will meet to organize the 116th Congress.

There are interesting differences between the two bodies. The House has no memory. It starts fresh with each new Congress. While the Senate -- since only one third of its members are new -- carries with it tradition and past actions.

Indian Country has experienced this difference first hand. It was the House that enacted House Concurrent Resolution 108. The Senate followed suite. Several years later the Senate, led by Sen. Henry Jackson, D-Washington, wanted to undo the damage and reverse course. The Senate passed a resolution to make it so. But the House would not act. As Franklin Ducheneaux, who was then staff counsel on Indian affairs, told me, in the House's view of the world there was no need to act. The resolution ended when a new Congress began. (The resolution only expressed a policy, not a law.) -- Mark Trahant

CSPAN captures a quick hug between Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, now officially, Members of Congress.

Happy Day hugs

12:23 pm

On the floor of the House, Representatives Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids share a quick hug. The next item on the agenda is to gather the members and then elect the next speaker of the House. -- Mark Trahant

Regalia and Moms

1:03 pm

Haaland publicized an open house this morning for constituents, supporters and more all while wearing her Laguna Pueblo regalia, or traditional outfit.

Both Representatives had their family by their side today. -- Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Rep. Deb Haaland introducing everyone at the open house to her mother. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

Haaland's family watching the cameras and meeting everyone coming through Haaland's office. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

​More Native people

1:35 pm

"We need more Native people." It has been a very common statement since Davids and Haaland ran for Congress. It's also been a statement repeated since they've been elected. Today during open house, I saw more and more Native people present. (More than the familiar faces who already live and work in Washington, D.C.)

I also spotted a Navajo couple wearing their regalia proudly while walking into Davids' office. It was a sight to see. And there may be a day when this regalia becomes the norm on Capital Hill. -- Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Madam Speaker

Nancy Pelosi has been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. She is now the third highest ranking member of government and next in line for the White House after the president and vice president.

The vote was not dramatic, she reached 219 votes, a majority, at 1:47 pm. Both Representatives. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland voted for Pelosi.

One of the first votes (after the election of Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker) will be the Democrats plan to reopen government.

The idea is simple: Pass appropriations bills for the agencies that have nothing to do with the wall, such as Interior. Then debate Homeland Security and the border wall on its own merits.

The House will likely pass the bills easily with only Democratic votes. But the Senate won’t even get that far. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t call up any legislation unless it has the support of President Donald J. Trump. The irony here is that the appropriations bills passed the Senate unanimously last month. -- Mark Trahant

Dean of the House, Don Young

As the senior most member of the House, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, confers the oath of office on Speaker Pelosi. Young lost his first bid for Congress in 1972, losing to Democrat Nick Begich. But Begich disappeared in a plane crash days before the election and Young won the special election in 1973.

The oath of office was administered to members of the House by Speaker Pelosi. "Congratulations, you are now all members of the 116th Congress." -- Mark Trahant

What's next?

It's now the 116th Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Deb Haaland, Rep. Sharice Davids, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Rep. Tom Cole, etc., etc.

(The House is in recess for more pictures and festivities.)

There is still work to do, the Democratic leadership wants a vote on reopening government.

Then this evening there are several events, including the reception for Haaland and Davids. We will be there too with more updates.

​Some of today's tweets

Indian Country Honors Davids and Haaland

11:45 pm

"It's a great day to be Indigenous(!), isn't it?" said Rep. Deb Haaland at the reception. People from all over Indian Country traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the two history-making Native women. The celebration started at dawn and continued into the evening at a reception hosted by the Congressional Native American Caucus.

You can catch the short speeches by Davids and Haaland below. (About 20 to 25 seconds is missing due to technical difficulties while recording.)

The Ho-Chunk drum group sang their songs, the newly sworn-in representatives shook hands and took pictures, and poet Joy Harjo spoke wise words to the room. Even Mark Ruffalo and Elizabeth Warren made an appearance.

By the end of the night, all of Indian Country recognized all the hard-working Native women who held office at any level -- tribal, local, state, federal.

Tribal women in the room, who held office at any level or tribal, were recognized. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)