News / USA

New US Congress to Confront Major Challenges

Members of the 113th U.S. Congress take the oath of office in the House of Representatives chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.
Members of the 113th U.S. Congress take the oath of office in the House of Representatives chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.

Related Articles

Michael Bowman
The new U.S. Congress will soon confront an issue that has plagued and paralyzed its predecessors: the country's runaway national debt. Congress remains politically divided, and its ability to find common ground will be put to the test once again.

Smiles abounded Thursday at the Capitol, where Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to new and returning senators.

  • Senator Mark Kirk is applauded by members of the House and Senate as he stands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on his return to the U.S. Senate after suffering a stroke, January 3, 2013.
  • Women members of Congress gather in front of the Capitol, Washington, January 3, 2013. 
  • Vice President Joe Biden administers the Senate Oath during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 3, 2013, as the 113th Congress officially began.
  • New Senator Angus King speaks to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, January 3, 2013.
  • Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters outside the Capitol, January 3, 2013.
  • Family members of Sentors and Representatives are greeted by Vice President Joe Biden, January 3, 2013.

BIDEN: “… and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?”

SENATORS: “I do.”

BIDEN: “Congratulations.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) watches as Senator Mark Kirk (2nd R) works his way up the Senate steps with the assistance of Senator Joe Manchin (2nd L) and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on his return to the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill, Washington, January 3, 2013.U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) watches as Senator Mark Kirk (2nd R) works his way up the Senate steps with the assistance of Senator Joe Manchin (2nd L) and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on his return to the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill, Washington, January 3, 2013.
x
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) watches as Senator Mark Kirk (2nd R) works his way up the Senate steps with the assistance of Senator Joe Manchin (2nd L) and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on his return to the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill, Washington, January 3, 2013.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) watches as Senator Mark Kirk (2nd R) works his way up the Senate steps with the assistance of Senator Joe Manchin (2nd L) and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on his return to the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill, Washington, January 3, 2013.
Moments earlier, in a particularly poignant moment, Biden helped escort Senator Mark Kirk to the chamber for the first time since the Illinois Republican suffered a major stroke last year.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: “Welcome back, senator!”

KIRK: “Thank you. Thank you, guys. It is good to see you guys.”

But the pomp and ceremony of a new Congress’ first day could not hide raw feelings that linger after cliffhanger votes in both chambers this week to avert automatic tax hikes mandated by the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Shortly after senators were sworn in, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to administer a blunt reality check.

113 Congress - House113 Congress - House
x
113 Congress - House
113 Congress - House
“In a couple of months, the president [Barack Obama] will ask us to raise the nation’s debt limit," he said. "We cannot agree to increase that borrowing limit without agreeing to reforms that lower the avalanche of spending that is creating this debt in the first place.”

McConnell flatly rejected President Barack Obama’s call for revenue increases as part of deficit reduction pacts in the coming year. And so, on the new Congress’ first day, partisan battle lines were drawn on the nation’s most pressing issue.

Many new senators already have drawn their own lines in the sand. Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren campaigned - and won - on a pledge to safeguard America’s social safety net from budget cuts.

“To all the seniors who deserve to retire with the security they earned, we are going to make sure your Medicare and Social Security benefits are protected, and that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share,” she said.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said new lawmakers are joining a broken legislature. “We have, at a very accelerated pace, made some very unwise choices about how we do the people’s business. This has been the most dysfunctional Senate in history,” he said.

And yet, as a new Congress convenes, many lawmakers could not help but strike a hopeful and optimistic tone. Republican Senator Bob Corker hailed a bipartisan effort to reform Senate rules and limit the use of procedural motions to block legislation. He said Congress has a chance to be productive for the American people.

“Look, making tough decisions sometimes creates drama, and hopefully we will act more like adults and make these decisions in advance and not at the last minute,” said Corker.

He added that a politically polarized Congress simply reflects a politically polarized electorate. “The country is divided," he said. "People do not realize that the Senate and the House really represent the views of the American people.”

Democratic Senator Max Baucus does not predict Congress will magically improve the way it does business. But he added that, at a minimum, gridlock cannot get any worse than it has been.

“There is no place to go but up. And many of us here are going to do all we can to make that happen,” he said.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid