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112th Congress: Day One

January 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The new, 112th Congress officially begins today, and for the first time since 2006, the Republicans will be in control of one of the chambers. Having netted 63 House seats in the November midterms, the Republicans are going into this session with a solid 242-193 majority over the Democrats. In the Senate however, the Democrats have managed to hold onto control and will gavel-in with 53 seats to the Republicans’ 47.

This will be the first session of Congress with the two chambers split between the two major parties since the 99th, which took place during years 5 and 6 of the Reagan Administration. During that session, Democrats and Republicans teamed up to pass a landmark deficit-reducing bill that, after a couple revisions, helped to take what was at the time a record federal deficit and produce the budget surpluses of the late 1990s. The Republicans in the Senate also used that pesky budget reconciliation process to pass a health care bill that protects people who lose their jobs from also losing their insurance coverage. And guess what else …they also passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

This session, the Republicans are starting out with two main, and contradictory, priorities: reducing the federal deficit and repealing the Affordable Care Act. The problem is that the Affordable Care Act has been estimated by the non-partisan budget experts at the Congressional Budget Office to reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years. So repealing it would actually add that $143 back onto the deficit projections. The Republicans have already set aside an exemption for this and some of their other legislative priorities in their tough new anti-deficit-spending rules, so they won’t actually have to acknowledge this contradiction in their platform in any substantial way. And the whole issue is basically moot anyways — they’re not going to be able to get their Affordable Care Act-repeal bill past the Democratic Senate and President Obama.

Before we get too deep into the legislative outlook for the next two years, let’s have a look at what the Republican Majority Leader-elect has on the calendar for today and the remainer of the week:

On Wednesday, the House will convene for the start of the 112th Congress at 12:00 p.m. There will be a recorded quorum call at 12:00 p.m. following the Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.

H.Res. 5 – A resolution providing for the House Rules of the 112th Congress (Privileged Resolution)

On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. Members are advised that there will be a recorded quorum call at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Reading of the Constitution of the United States by Members of the House of Representatives (The reading will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m.) (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte)

H.Res. __ – A resolution to Cut Congress’s Budget (Suspension) (Sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden)

On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. Last votes for the week will conclude by noon.

H.Res. __ – A resolution providing for consideration of the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (Special Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. David Dreier / Rules Committee)

One quick note on the rules package, which I’ve been examining more substantially here: the Republicans made some last minute changes to it late Tuesday night. They took out a particularly nice provision that would have required committees to post attendance records online so the public can see who shows up to the meetings and who skips out. They also changed several other provisions that strike me as less significant. The point I want to make, though, is that by changing the rules package at the eleventh hour, when the Republicans bring it up for a vote tomorrow it will be in violation of its own rule that all unreported bills be available to Members for three days before they can be voted on. I suppose that since the rules package won’t be in effect until the second they close the roll call on it, when the vote is taking place they won’t technically be in violation.

In typical fashion, here’s the not-too-helpful schedule the Senate Democrats have put out for their work week:

[Wednesday, 1/5] Convenes: 12:00 noon

Following the presentation of the certificates of election and the swearing in of elected members, there will be a required live quorum. All senators are asked to report to the floor at that time. The Senate will then be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each.

I believe the plan there is to swear-in new members, pass some routine resolutions to do things like inform the President that a quorum has convened, and then adjourn for a two-week vacation. But, after that, it’s going to be filibuster reform time!

A quick note on data: While our Senators and Representatives pages have already been updated for the new Congress, our bills section has not. Because Congress does not make its legislative data available to the public in full and timely ways, OpenCongress obtains bill information anywhere between 6-12 hours after it’s posted on the official government website, THOMAS. For the new Congress, then, bills introduced on Jan. 5th will be displayed here on OpenCongress that evening, or by January 6th at the latest. Until then, bills shown below are those from the previous 111th Congress, and are no longer active.

Note by David Moore: The OC team is eagerly waiting on new data for the 112th Congress to arrive via our valued data partners, the mighty GovTrack. Just for fun, here’s a link to the first roll call of the Congress, an unstyled XML file, with a quorum for new House members. And after that, the deluge… if only it were a deluge of #opengovdata. Hopefully soon.

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