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Congress set to grapple with economy, Obama agenda

By
January 6, 2009

The Democratic-dominated Congress convenes Tuesday to confront perhaps the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and to grapple with a hugely ambitious agenda set by President-elect Barack Obama.

The opening day of a two-year session is typically more ceremony than substance, and Congress often recesses until the new president takes office or after the State of the Union address at the end of January.

This year, however, with the economy in a worsening recession, Democrats are promising swift action on an as-yet-unveiled $775 billion economy recovery program that is the first order of business for the Obama administration.

"We will hit the ground running … to address the pain being felt by the American people," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised Monday as she welcomed Obama to her office.

For the first time in 16 years, Democrats control both houses of Congress and welcome one of their own to the White House. That foreshadows a productive session, particularly if Obama can muster Republican support for his initiatives, as he is seeking.

Pelosi had earlier promised to try to get the economic recovery bill ready for Obama’s signature by Inauguration Day, an optimistic timeline that has now slipped by several weeks.

With their numbers bolstered by last fall’s elections, congressional Democrats are well-positioned to dominate the session.

Democrat Al Franken on Monday became the apparent victor in a hard-fought Minnesota Senate race. That means Democrats’ numbers in the chamber could reach 59 — tantalizingly close to the magic 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman promises to contest the result.

But first, Senate Democratic leaders need to work out a looming confrontation with Roland Burris, the Illinois Democrat named by scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces charges of having attempted to sell the seat.

Burris, who is black, came to Washington on Monday to claim the seat, though Democratic officials promise he won’t be admitted to the Senate carrying the taint of Blagojevich.

In the House, Pelosi finds her own position strengthened by a gain of more than 20 seats. Her status as the top Democrat in Washington, however, has been supplanted by Obama.

For Republicans, the next two years promise to be difficult. They vow to work with Obama but at the same time have installed a more conservative leadership team in the House that’s eager to draw distinctions with Democrats.

In addition to the economic recovery plan, early items on the agenda include a measure designed to ensure women have the right to sue their employers for pay discrimination. It passed the House but fell prey to a GOP filibuster in the Senate. Now it looks as though it will easily pass.

Despite the sense of optimism, however, troubling realities threaten the Democratic agenda.

Perhaps most dangerous is the spiraling budget deficit. On Wednesday, lawmakers will get some very sobering news: New budget deficit projections from congressional estimators project a flood of red ink — likely to exceed $1 trillion for the current budget year — that could threaten other initiatives like extending health care to millions of the uninsured.

With that in mind, Obama promises "very concrete, serious plans for midterm and long-term fiscal discipline."

2 Responses to Congress set to grapple with economy, Obama agenda

  1. Janice

    January 6, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I’m writing my representatives and senators – again.

    Our country is in deep financial trouble, but the underlying cause is loss of good jobs to foreign markets. Without good paying jobs, nothing will help our country. Jobs must be the focus of any stimulus package – if it has any chance of working. Throwing money at a problem will not fix it – you have already wasted 700 billion throwing money at the financial markets and all that has done is pad the pockets of the very treasonous greedy people who caused this disaster to our country. It is time for our leadership to do this right, not easy.
    1) Balance the working class tax cuts with removing the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. Giving the rich more money doesn’t work – as proven by the financial disaster we are in. This will help offset the lost revenue from the proposed tax cuts and help return some fairness in our social system.
    2) There is a lot of corruption and waste in state and local governments. Throwing money at them will only reward this behavior. I would like to see any money given to the state governments set as a loan, with detailed list of goals/successes as the target. If the target is met – as evidenced by achievement of the goals/successes, then the loan will revert to a grant. If the state does not achieve the required goals, the money will have to be paid back, with interest. The goals should be successful small business creation (local good paying jobs), supplemented and low cost medical insurance (to keep people healthy and help small business creation).
    3) I agree with rebuliding the infrastructure – it needs to be done and will build jobs. However, all contracts must be given to companies owned and located in the United States – NO FOREIGN CONTRACTS. This stimulus package is paid for by American citizens and ALL the money should go to American business and jobs. NO EXCEPTIONS. Common sense.
    4) We must move away from foreign oil and to a green energy economy. There must be stimulus money given to startup companies to create renewable and clean technology. Again, this is American money for American jobs. It is time to take care of our own.
    5) Universal health care. The citizens of this country need – and deserve – affordable health care. It is time to stop pandering to special intersts and do what is right for the American people. Other countries provide universal health care to their citizens – it is time we do here. Our leadership need to get this right. It can be done – and we, the American people, charge you to do this.
    6) Start rewarding educators to do a good job and educate our young. Provide a quality education to anyone willing to put the time into maintaining a C average. Get our citizens educated!
    7) Protect our environment. Provide incentives to clean up – not trade pollution credits – what a sorry idea!

    What ever you do in Washington must start at the ground level. “Trickle down” has been tried and failed. It does not work. What you need to do is start at the bottom – help WE THE PEOPLE at our level. Then WE can put our economy back together and build it from the ground up – just like WE created our wonderful country. The problem is that corporate and personal greed and corruption have gotten in the way. This is what has derailed our country.

    It is YOUR job to get this right – it may very well be our last chance to save our country.

    If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
    Mark Twain

  2. John H Kennedy Denver CO

    January 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Justice for Bush/Cheney are
    Just as Important As An Economic Fix (Which I support)

    REP. KUCINICH ON JAN 6TH
    SHOULD RENEW HIS BATTLE
    TO IMPEACH BUSH & CHENEY

    THE AMERICAN DREAM INCLUDES
    the Freedom From Having To Fear A Dangerous, Over Reaching President & Vice President.
    The House was given the responsibility to rein in an over reaching president with impeachment. This is not Obama’s responsibility alone. It is primarily the responsibility of Congressmen.

    OVER 4,200 US Soldiers WOULD STILL BE ALIVE
    IF BUSH & CHENEY HAD NOT CONNED CONGRESS
    WITH WMD LIES, odered TORTURE
    And a host of other abominations.

    The DEADLINE to stop this expansion of power is Jan 20th.

    There is plenty of desire among voters for impeachment.

    CHAIRMAN CONYERS of the House Judiciary Committee
    RECEIVED A PETITION WITH OVER

    ONE MILLION SIGNATURES
    ASKING FOR Impeachment HEARINGS
    And IGNORED IT.

    Voters have appreciated Kucinich’s impeachment efforts thus far, but he needs to continue to press
    for impeachment prior to January 20th.

    Kucinich may say that Pelosi made him stop
    trying to impeach Bush and Cheney,
    But

    “SHE MADE ME DO IT” Won’t do!

    Kucinich owes this to Our Soldiers Who Died For Bush’s Lies, the Constitution, our Rule Of Law and the Voters.

    FILE AN IMPEACHMENT RESOLUTION
    THE FIRST DAY!

    REP. WEXLER And ALL OF KUCINICH’S CO-SPONSORS of his prior Impeachment resolutions SHOULD BE FILING THEIR OWN/SEPARATE RESOLUTIONs AS WELL,

    UNLESS THEIR SUPPORT WAS JUST
    TROLLING FOR CAMPAIGN DONATIONS.