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

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid