WASHINGTON Jan 3 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 U.S. debt, tax reform and the
Here's a look:
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.
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.
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 Jan.
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.
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.
Congress gave itself a new deadline, Sept. 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 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.