In taking control of Congress on Tuesday, Republicans say they will quickly advance energy and health care legislation that stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate as they try to make good on claims, and address doubts, that they can govern effectively.
“We have sort of laid down the marker, and we need to follow through,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican, as the 114th Congress prepared to convene.
Yet a sour note is possible on Tuesday as Speaker John A. Boehner seeks his third term as the House leader. Some disgruntled conservatives have said they will not back Mr. Boehner — he was embarrassed when a dozen defected two years ago — and a coup, while unlikely, would represent a disastrous beginning. Some conservative activists also say congressional Republicans are starting out too timidly.
Republicans hope to strike early with measures that are known to have bipartisan support. The House is set to pass legislation this week expediting the Keystone XL pipeline; the Senate is making it the first order of business as well. The House will also take up a measure that would change the new health care law’s definition of full-time workers to those working 40 hours rather than the current 30 hours — another proposal that has drawn backing from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.
Thirteen new senators and 58 new House members will be sworn in as the 114th Congress opens with its traditional pomp, allowing Republicans to take advantage of their strong election showing two months ago. The party has command of the House and Senate for the first time in eight years and will control the legislative branch during the final two years of President Obama’s term and the run-up to the 2016 elections.
Members of both parties say there is opportunity for compromise, particularly on trade, taxes and public works. Still, there are ample grounds for conflict, with the president’s executive actions on immigration and the restoration of relations with Cuba hanging over the start of the new Congress. In a statement, Mr. Boehner promised that “nothing is going to get in the way of our team’s focus on the American people’s priorities.”
SOURCE: CARL HULSE
The New York Times