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.
Although he calls himself a senator, Roland Burris has found little support among fellow Democrats in his effort to take the Senate seat to which embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed him.
The Senate was scheduled to convene at noon Tuesday with its newest members. Yet the controversy over the appointment of Burris by a governor accused of trying to sell the old seat of President-elect Barack Obama and the ongoing dispute over election results in Minnesota practically guaranteed that both seats would remain empty by day's end.
The morning after the Nov. 4 election, Norm Coleman stood before TV cameras, declared victory in Minnesota's U.S. Senate election and said that if he were opponent Al Franken he'd "step aside."
Two months later, Coleman finds himself down by nearly the same margin he appeared to hold over Franken that day. His lawyers said Coleman — who later expressed regret at that post-election remark — is not ready to step aside, vowing a lawsuit that's likely to keep the race in limbo for several more months.
The state Canvassing Board was poised to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota's grueling Senate election in Al Franken's favor — but that doesn't mean the race is definitely over.
The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who led Franken on election night.
Senate Democratic leaders plan to grant few if any privileges next week to Roland Burris, the man picked by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to represent the state in the Senate, even if Burris arrives on Capitol Hill with the proper credentials.
Senate officials involved in the tangle of legal and logistical planning said Friday that a Democrat will object to Burris being duly sworn with the rest of his class and will propose that his credentials be reviewed for a period of time by the Rules Committee.
Former Democratic senator Claiborne Pell, who championed the Pell grant program for college students, died Thursday at his Newport, Rhode Island home after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, US media said. He was 90.
Pell served as Rhode Island senator from 1961 until his retirement in 1997, two years after he announced he had contracted the debilitating disease.
Pell was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1987 to 1994 and was named US delegate to the United Nations shortly before he retired.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has named a successor to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, but Democratic leaders who control the Senate say they will refuse to seat Blagojevich's pick, former state Attorney General Roland Burris.
Here are some questions and answers about the power of the Senate to seat Obama's successor.
Q: What is the Senate's authority to seat or not seat an appointee like Burris?
Top Republicans in the US Congress called for more time and public hearings before Democrats present a giant economic stimulus package for Barack Obama to sign after he becomes president on January 20.
Obama and Democrats in Congress hope to have an economic stimulus package of some 850 billion dollars ready when the White House changes hands, putting the economy at the top of the agenda.
After five terms in the Senate, service in two wars and in his third marriage at age 81, John W. Warner still retains the unbent posture and bearing of the Marine he once was.
When he took his seat in the U.S. Senate 30 years ago, he was the rakish husband of Elizabeth Taylor with movie star looks of his own, a gentleman's drawl and a farm in Virginia horse country.
He became "the senator from central casting."
The incoming Obama administration is nearing agreement with congressional Democrats on a huge emergency spending bill intended to jolt the weak U.S. economy and create 3 million jobs over two years, Vice President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday.
Asked whether an agreement on the shape of the stimulus bill would be reached by Christmas, Biden said: "I think we're getting awful close to that."
But he refused to divulge how much the measure would cost taxpayers once the team of President-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20.