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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid