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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora