Republicans retain House majority; Democrats gain slightly in Senate
Newly elected members of the 113th Congress gathered this month on Capitol Hill following the reelection of President Barack Obama, preservation of the House Republican majority, and a two-seat gain for the Democratic majority in the Senate.
The orientation for new members of the next Congress coincided with the convening of a lame duck session of the current 112th Congress that is expected to focus on urgent economic issues (see front page).
In addition to orientation, House and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats elected their leaders for the upcoming Congress, which convenes Jan. 3. House Democrats have scheduled their leadership election for the week of Nov. 26.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will continue in his leadership role. Election returns available so far indicate that the House is projected to be comprised of 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats.
Following the election, Boehner indicated that he is ready to work with the president to find the “common ground that has eluded us” for resolving numerous pressing economic issues involving the budget deficit, taxes and cuts to entitlement programs. The Republicans continue, however, to express opposition to any proposal by the president that includes raising revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Also returning to their posts are House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to retain her leadership position, along with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson (D-Ct.).
Announcing her decision to remain in her post, Pelosi, who was the first woman speaker of the House from 2007 to 2010, said she will help elect more women and fight the role of money in politics during the next two years as minority leader.
The gain of two Democratic seats in the Senate brings the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in the 113th Congress to 53-45. In addition, the Democrats will be helped by two Independents who have chosen to caucus with them.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will remain in his leadership role assisted by Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Democratic Policy Committee Chair Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). Reid emphasized the day after the election that “it’s time to put politics aside and work together to find solutions.” “The strategy of obstruction, gridlock and delay was soundly rejected by the American people. Now they are looking to us for solutions,” he said.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also will remain in his position. McConnell indicated that he is eager to hear “realistic” proposals from the president for addressing the country’s economic challenges.
Also elected to leadership posts were Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) as minority whip and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as Republican Conference chairman.
In his election night speech, President Obama vowed to give the voters who reelected him action rather than politics as usual. He said he is “looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit; reforming our tax code; fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”
The president is expected to negotiate a proposed immigration plan that would provide a legalization path for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and establish a new guestworker program.
Cybersecurity is another area on which the president plans to take action, pushing for legislation but possibly addressing the issue through an executive order if Congress does not approve legislation.
In addition, the president will be moving forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act as major portions of the act go into effect in 2014. Also on the list is final implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which seeks financial reform and greater transparency among corporations.