Just as soon as Barack Obama is sworn into office on Monday, lawmakers will get to work with an immeasurable agenda that ranges from gun control to disaster aid, a pay raise for bureaucrats and the Senate‚??s organizational rules for filibusters.
Because the filibuster rule could only be changed on the official first day of the legislative session on Jan. 3, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to employ an unusual trick to make Day No. 1 last until after the inauguration on Jan. 22‚??that‚??s 19 days in human time‚??when Democrats could find time to get to the matter. Republicans are expected to block any changes to the historic tactic; it‚??s one of the few tools a minority has to exert any power in the upper chamber.
Reid has also pledged to bring up some form of gun control, but not the ‚??assault weapons‚?Ě variety, and the Senate is expected to vote on final passage of a massive Hurricane Sandy aid package criticized by some Republicans as loaded with massive pork spending unrelated to the disaster.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will finally make an appearance on Capitol Hill to give testimony on what transpired in Benghazi, first to a Senate panel on Tuesday then a House committee on Thursday.
The House is expected to vote on a bill this week to reverse a pay raise for federal workers that was ordered by Obama as Republican lawmakers were in a deadlock with the president over fiscal cliff negotiations.
Senate committees will be preparing for a flurry of confirmation hearings to wade through Obama‚??s Cabinet picks to help him lead during his second term.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week was the most recent official to resign his post; no successor has been named. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearing on Thursday for Sen. John Kerry to head the State Department.