New Congress will take fresh crack at old problems

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 3, 2013 2:58pm EST

Speaker of the House John Boehner addresses the 113th Congress in the Capitol in Washington January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Speaker of the House John Boehner addresses the 113th Congress in the Capitol in Washington January 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new 113th U.S. Congress, which convenes on Thursday, is set to take a fresh crack at a number of old, and highly contentious, issues, such as gun control, immigration, the record debt, tax reform and the farm bill.

Here's a look:

GUN CONTROL

President Barack Obama vows to crack down on gun violence in the wake of the school massacre last month in Newtown, Connecticut, the latest in a series of shooting rampages over the past decade.

According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans now back tougher gun laws, but 51 percent oppose Obama's call to outlaw so-called assault weapons.

A sharply divided Congress is awaiting a broad review of gun violence headed by Vice President Joe Biden.

IMMIGRATION

Hispanic voters last year helped Obama win a second term and Democrats to increase their clout in Congress.

Republicans took notice and want to win Hispanic support in the 2014 elections. One step toward that goal would be for Republicans to become more open to immigration reform.

The big question is how far Republicans would go to provide a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants, estimated to number up to 12 million in the United States.

SEQUESTRATION

The White House and Congress managed to cut a deal on the "fiscal cliff" by agreeing to a two-month delay to sequestration - automatic spending cuts that were set to take effect on January 1.

Obama and lawmakers now have until March 1 to reach agreement on about $85 billion in spending reductions. If they do not, they will see across-the-board ones kick in, about evenly split between military and domestic programs.

DEBT LIMIT

Obama and Congress likely have until the end of February to raise the U.S. debt limit, now at $16.4 trillion.

Failure to do so would result in an unprecedented U.S. default, a move likely to rattle financial markets worldwide.

Obama says he will refuse to allow the debt limit to become a political bargaining tool again.

But Republicans do not seem be willing to raise it without extracting major spending cuts, mostly from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

FARM BILL

Congress gave itself a new deadline, September 30, to complete an overdue five-year, $500 billion farm bill that withered in election-year acrimony in 2012.

The House version proposed the deepest cuts in a generation for food stamps for the poor. But fiscal conservatives want more cuts in food stamps as well as farm subsidies.

The bills produced last year by the House and Senate agriculture committees would have cut between $23 billion and $35 billion. They will dig deeper in the months ahead.

It will be the first time Congress began work on a farm bill in one session and had to refile it in the new session.

HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF

Under pressure from fellow Republicans inside and outside of Congress, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Republican-led House is expected to move quickly in coming weeks to approve a long-delayed relief package for victims of superstorm Sandy in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

SENATE FILIBUSTER

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is fed up with Republican procedural roadblocks commonly known as filibusters.

So Reid, to the outrage of Republicans, vows to try to change the rules - unless both sides enter some sort of an agreement to make the chamber work more efficiently.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Obama's fellow Democrats will take another crack at trying to renew the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which was championed nearly two decades ago by Biden, then a senator.

The measure is designed to combat domestic abuse, but became a legislative vehicle in Congress last year for Democrats and Republicans to jockey for political position.

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (8)
OneOfTheSheep wrote:
A brilliant critic once issued this verdict on a much earlier work: What is good is not original, and what is original is not good.” Those words popped into my mind as I finished reading this text.

In an earlier comment on Reuters I said: “Our politicians…live in a fantasy world where they can be re-elected again and again simply by playing voters off one against the other. So long as “we, the people are can be kept squabbling over contraception, abortion, welfare, illegal immigration, the cost of medical care, and extending unemployment benefits (for YEARS), they can avoid framing and presenting us with the choices that must be made if America is to return to a fiscally sustainable economy.”

Here we are a day or two later and unemployment benefits have again been been extended. Notice how the word “immigration” is not preceded by the word “illegal”? It’s as if America has a problem with LEGAL immigration? Clearly this piece has an “agenda” of no small bias.

Gun control is suddenly there (never let a tragedy go to waste). Sequestration is suddenly there because this last moment two-month can-kick solves NOTHING. The Debt Limit is there, God knows why. NO ONE really expects it won’t be raised, and at the time it is NO ONE can tell ANYONE what the extra spending thus authorized will be spent FOR or WHY. We ALL know with absolute certainty, however, that it WILL BE SPENT; and more.

The Farm Bill? The only reason anyone is paying attention to that fiscal packet of putrid political pork is that the public has been carefully whipped up into a timely frenzy over the idea that milk prices might double IF NO ONE DID ANYTHING. Fat chance. Once again, we’re being “played”.

Hurricane Sandy Relief? The nation has become addicted to the fiscal insanity of repeatedly making whole every community that suffers a predictable short or long term “disaster”. Why rebuild communities we absolutely know global warming will soon make uninhabitable?

I’m not suggesting those people be abandoned, but have them contribute “their” properties for seaside parks and use eminent domain to offer them an affordable “fresh start” in an inland planned community better than Levitown. No one has a right to be “made whole” at taxpayer expense or to a “way of life” no longer fiscally sustainable. In the long term money spent rebuilding New Orleans and improving it’s levees is futile. Sooner or later it ‘s going to be underwater.

Senate Filibuster? Harry Reid’s “baby”that should be stillborn. It’s dangerous to let party “hacks” meddle with the traditional checks and balances of constitutional government. Violence against Women? India has a major “violence against women” problem, the U.S. doesn’t. Yes, any is too much, but the “issue” is a lesser one here today than in times past.

Every issue above is a “smoke screen”, a conscious and deliberate ongoing diversion and fragmentation of the attention of Americans from our REAL problem. and what is that? There is NO “consensus” as to what America SHOULD be.

Is it not already obvious that without SOME national consensus there is no “natural” limit our government’s size or the funds it will extract from taxpayers as tribute to support itself? Do YOU want YOUR government to become your MASTER? We’re well along that path today!

This country is well able to afford anything it’s people need. There will never be a country that can afford everything it’s people want, but our politicians have deceive us for far too long that “all things are possible”.

It is properly for “we, the people to decide (1) those specific things we will willingly pay sufficient taxes to have our government do (and to WHAT extent), and (2) prioritize funding for each such that the total thus allocated not exceed available revenue absent genuine national emergency. Do this and there is NO “need” to ever again increase America’s debt limit! We could even start paying it DOWN!

I’m NOT saying this will be easy. I AM saying it is absolutely necessary. No two people agree on any list of “needs” versus “wants”. No two will agree on fiscal priorities for available funds. The process will be a political Civil War. Families will be split and lifelong enemies made, but relatively few will die. If anyone has a better idea, NOW’S THE TIME!

The sound of those printing presses turning out dollars without end with absolutely NOTHING behind them isn’t as loud as that of the planes with their bombs approaching Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But that attack didn’t destroy America. Quite the opposite, it brought us together. The same thing happened on 9/11.

Well mark my words, SOMETHING had better similarly “bring together” Americans to collectively consider the social and financial destruction that awaits us not far down the road on our present course. We are the proverbial log floating down the river covered with ants, each believing they are steering.

Has America no one left with the courage, inspiration and confidence to steer this great nation back onto an economically sustainable or expansive path?

Jan 03, 2013 4:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
mountainrose wrote:
Congressional budget office said this deal adds to deficit. Congress kicked the can down the road as usual. Nobody , especially the high $$ DC lobbyists wants to hear the solutions will be painful; that’s now how politicians get reelected.Cut the other guy or raise the other guys taxes

Jan 03, 2013 4:28am EST  --  Report as abuse
minipaws wrote:
IOUSA! The new Greece!

Jan 03, 2013 8:02am EST  --  Report as abuse
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