Jan 04, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – The 117th Congress of the United States kicked off its two-year legislative session here yesterday. Members of the House of Representatives and Senate were sworn-in on the floor of their respective chambers by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Vice President Mike Pence, respectively, albeit slightly differently this year due to coronavirus pandemic protocols.
The House re-elected Pelosi to serve as the Speaker of the House and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to serve as Minority Leader prior to the swearing-in ceremony, which took place in groupings of Members to adhere to social distancing requirements. Senators took the oath in pairings, one group at a time.
The 117th Congress includes 66 new members: 59 new members of the House and seven new members of the Senate.
Of the new House Members, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) replaces now retired Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) to represent the Houston-area rice-producing 22nd district. Three new Members served in previous Congresses including Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) who represents a rice district in the Central Valley. Tragically and unexpectedly, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was set to fill the seat of now retired Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), passed away five days prior to being sworn-in. A special election will be held for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District, which covers the northeast Louisiana rice-producing region, on March 20, leaving the seat vacant until a winner is determined.
While there are no freshman Senators this Congress from rice-producing states, those re-elected include Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS). Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will soon resign her seat in advance of her inauguration as Vice President of the United States on January 20. California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced he will appoint Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, to fill the seat through the end of Harris’ term, which is set to expire in 2022.
In the House, Democrats hold 222 seats, while the Republicans hold 211 seats. In addition to the vacancy in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District, one House race, New York’s 22nd district, remains outstanding.
In the Senate, Republicans currently hold a 50 to 48 majority over Democrats. The Senate majority still hangs in the balance as both incumbent Georgia GOP Senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, face opponents in runoff elections set to be held tomorrow, January 5. It’s anticipated that the results of these elections may not be known and certified until days or weeks following the election.
“USA Rice is excited to meet the new members of the 117th Congress and welcome back our friends who were re-elected,” said Bobby Hanks, Louisiana rice miller and chair of USA Rice. “We anticipate much work ahead and we look forward to educating and engaging with Congress to ensure the U.S. rice industry’s priorities and issues are heard over the next two years.”
Hanks added: “USA Rice also offers our condolences to the family and friends of the late Rep.-elect Luke Letlow. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they mourn this terrible loss.”