Lawmakers returned Monday to find that the political earthquake from the presidential election had barely registered on Capitol Hill, where the leadership of both parties remained solidly intact.
From Washington Times
The meager agenda for the “lame-duck” session, however, foretold the sea change headed for Washington. Republican leaders threw aside plans for big bipartisan bills and set out to do as little as possible before President-elect Donald Trump takes office next year and the GOP seizes control of the executive and legislative branches.
House Republicans kicked off leadership elections with a closed-door meeting to hear speeches from contenders, but the current slate of leaders topped by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers did not face serious challenges in the vote slated for Tuesday.
The faction of conservative lawmakers who for years vexed the GOP leadership did not rise up this time. Mr. Ryan, facing backbiting for never fully supporting Mr. Trump’s run, got a free pass.
“Victory heals all wounds,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican.
On the other side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was the most vulnerable to overthrow after failing to significantly chip away at the majority in the election. Nevertheless, the California congresswoman was poised to enter her 15th year at the helm of House Democrats.
Her lieutenants — Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra — also appeared secure in their jobs.
A small group of House Democrats called for a delay of the leadership vote scheduled for Thursday, arguing the caucus needs more time to digest the election results and determine how to best position itself to fight Mr. Trump’s “potentially dangerous agenda.”
The request was spearheaded by Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who is eyeing a long-shot run against Ms. Pelosi but is roundly dismissed by his peers.
In the Senate, the biggest change expected is the assent of Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, currently the No. 3 Senate Democrat, to succeed retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his leadership crew were headed for re-election to their posts when the chamber’s Republicans put it to a vote Wednesday.
Despite the familiar faces in leadership, Mr. McCarthy said the presidential election would profoundly alter Capitol Hill politics.
“It’s going to shake this place up,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “You’ve got to give the president-elect credit, because he listened to a voice that people weren’t listening to, and he became their voice, and I think all elected [officials] on both sides have got to recognize that.”
Mr. Trump’s upset victory “[reminds] me … the power still rests with the people,” said Mr. McCarthy.
Preparing for the new president, Republican leaders cleared the deck of ambitious end-of-year legislation and looked for a clean exit from the 114th Congress.
A stopgap spending bill to keep the government running is in the works, putting off major budget decisions until Mr. Trump takes up residence in the White House.
The government has been operating on a temporary spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, since the budget year began Oct. 1. That CR expires Dec. 9, which is the deadline for another extension.
“It should be a short lame duck,” said a Senate Republican aide.
Despite the shrinking agenda, Mr. Ryan said two bipartisan bills are still on the to-do list for the lame duck.
The speaker said that he wanted action on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which seeks to shore up U.S. mental health services by adding hospital beds for people suffering with mental illness and making other reforms.
He also wanted to get the 21st Century Cures Act across the finish line. The bill would provide nearly $9 billion for new medical research, including Mr. Obama’s Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine Initiatives.
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