A Loud Bang: Most Racially Divided 115th Congress Starts First Day in 2017

https://www.theblot.com/loud-bang-racially-divided-115th-congress-starts-first-day-2017-7760504

A Loud Bang: Most Racially Divided 115th Congress Starts First Day in 2017

The 115th congress, most racially divided

The 115th Congress convenes for the first time today, with the 56 newly-elected Members of Congress taking the spotlight in swearing-in ceremonies scheduled to take place across Capitol Hill throughout the day. The partisan breakdown determined by last November’s elections gives the Republican Party majorities in both chambers, albeit by a slightly smaller 241-194 margin in the House and a 52-48 margin in the Senate. With President-elect Donald Trump’s coinciding electoral triumph, this year will be the first since the 2006 midterm elections that the GOP will enjoy control of both chambers of Congress as well as the presidency.

While the pomp and circumstance around the swearing-in ceremonies typically overshadows any legislative action in Congress’s first day, a controversial change proposed by Republicans last night to alter the operations of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics could offer an early opportunity for Democrats to voice their displeasure with the majority. Republicans argue that the ethics changes are largely bipartisan and streamline the complaint process, but Democrats have complained that it would essentially defang the office and prevent it from pursuing meaningful investigations. Per the parliamentary procedure laid out by the Constitution, the House sets its own rules, meaning that opponents to the changes are unlikely to mount any successful opposition before the rules are ratified in a vote later today.

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The remainder of the week will mostly set the stage for the fireworks to come as Republicans prepare for President-elect Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and the ambitious agenda they have planned for the first quarter of 2017. On the House floor today are two bills dealing with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs; one that would provide additional documentation of employee reprimands (bill text) and another that would require the VA to implement a system to identify and track biological implants (bill text). The remainder of the week’s legislative action will be highlighted by a pair of measures set to hit the House floor that would target any last-minute regulations from the outgoing Obama Administration. Those bills, which will match measures (H.R. 4612 and H.R. 427) passed by the House in the 114th Congress, aim to preclude the Obama White House from issuing any rules that may run counter to the priorities of the GOP and the incoming president.

In the Senate, party leaders are preparing to release the 2017 fiscal-year budget resolution, with instructions for reconciliation that will likely be the vehicle for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That document will start in the Senate this week before dominating floor time in what is expected to be a contentious series of votes next week. President Obama is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday and speak to House and Senate Democrats to discuss strategies for protecting his signature legislative achievement from Republican repeal efforts. While the reconciliation process will prevent Democrats from filibustering a repeal in full, the minority party may have some influence by highlighting the short-term chaos that could follow a rapid ACA repeal.

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Finally, Vice-President Joe Biden will preside over a joint session of Congress on Friday to officially certify the ballots of the Electoral College confirming Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. The session marks the last official confirmation of Trump’s election before his inauguration later this month.

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