Nancy Pelosi elected House speaker; Blackburn sworn into Senate

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi stands next to Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis as she enters House chambers after being elected Speaker of the House.

WASHINGTON — The House elected Nancy Pelosi as its speaker Thursday as Democrats take command of the chamber for the new Congress.

The near party-line majority vote makes her the country’s most powerful Democrat as the party begins two more years of confronting President Donald Trump. Pelosi’s Democrats will be able to set the House’s legislative agenda and conduct investigations of the Trump administration that Republicans shunned when they held the majority.

Thursday’s vote restores Pelosi to the post she held from 2007 until 2011. She’s the only woman to ever hold the chamber’s top job.

Pelosi, of California, reclaimed the job after Democrats gained 40 seats in the November elections, their biggest pickup in four decades. There are 235 Democrats in the House and 199 Republicans, with one vacancy.

Pelosi isn’t ruling out impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, depending on findings by the special counsel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Democrats are assuming the majority in the House, where the Constitution says impeachment proceedings must begin. Pelosi previously called impeachment a “divisive activity,” and Democrats were cautious about mentioning the “I” word during the 2018 midterms for fear it would backfire politically.

But Pelosi did not shy away from it Thursday. She said, “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason.”

It’s unclear that a sitting president can be indicted. Justice Department guidelines suggest he can’t. Pelosi calls it “an open discussion.” She adds, “Everything indicates that a president can be indicted after he is no longer president.”

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the campaign or with his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations.

Earlier, the Senate of the 116th Congress was sworn in, including Tennessee’s first female senator, Marsha Blackburn.

“It is a distinct opportunity to serve as Tennessee’s first female Senator. In this role, I will continue to be an advocate for faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity for Tennesseans and for all Americans across the country,” the Republican said in a statement.

“In the Senate, I will continue to work with my colleagues to secure our borders and build the wall so we can keep our country safe from drug, human, and labor traffickers, as well as from the gang members that are crossing into our country illegally. I look forward to confirming strict constitutionalist judges to the Supreme Court and approving the President’s qualified nominees to our federal courts. I will also work to close the digital divide by bringing broadband access to rural communities and to address the opioid epidemic that is plaguing communities across our country.”

Prior to her election to the Senate, Sen. Blackburn represented Tennessee’s seventh congressional district in the House of Representatives.

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