The Latest: Johnson insists vote challenge helps democracy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the new session of Congress (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

Sen. Ron Johnson is insisting that the extraordinary effort by congressional Republicans to challenge Joe Biden’s presidential victory is not intended to thwart the democratic process but “to protect it.”

In a interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Wisconsin senator pointed to an “unsustainable state of affairs” where he claimed that many people in the country don’t accept the election as legitimate. He contends that more transparency is needed to “restore confidence” in results that states and the Electoral College have certified.

A group of 11 senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas say they will reject the Electoral College results during a joint session Wednesday unless a commission is appointed to conduct a 10-day audit of the vote. They are zeroing in on the states where President Donald Trump has raised founded claims of voter fraud.

Johnson isn’t offering new evidence of voting problems. And he does acknowledge that Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Multiple lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team have been repeatedly dismissed, by the Supreme Court and by Trump-appointed judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.

When Johnson insisted that “tens of millions of people” believe the presidential election was “stolen,” NBC’s Chuck Todd suggested that Johnson “look in the mirror” as to why that is. Todd cut off Johnson’s unsubstantiated assertions.

Todd told Johnson: “You don’t get to make these allegations that haven’t been proven true.”

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW CONGRESS

Read more:

— More GOP lawmakers enlist in Trump effort to undo Biden win

— EXPLAINER: As Georgia awaits, Republicans still have Senate control

Biden flexes Georgia muscle alongside GOP in Senate races

— Memorial held for congressman-elect who contracted COVID-19

— Senate race thrusts ‘Black America’s church’ into spotlight

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WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

8 a.m.

The start of the new congressional session on Sunday comes during a tumultuous period in U.S. history.

A growing number of Republicans are working to overturn Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump, and a surge of coronavirus infections is imposing limits at the Capitol.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is set to be reelected as House speaker by fellow Democrats, who retain the House majority but with the slimmest margin in 20 years.

Opening the Senate could be among Mitch McConnell’s final acts as majority leader. Republican control depends on Tuesday’s runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia.

It’s often said that divided government can be a time for legislative compromises, but lawmakers are charging into the 117th Congress with the nation more torn than ever, disputing even basic facts including that Biden won the presidential election.