WASHINGTON Jan 3 The Republican-led Congress
begins a new session on Tuesday where it will start laying plans
for enacting President-elect Donald Trump's agenda of tax cuts,
repeal of Obamacare and the rollback of financial and
With Trump set to be sworn in as president on Jan. 20,
Republican lawmakers hope to get a quick start on priorities
that were blocked during Democratic President Barack Obama's
eight years in the White House.
Since his election on Nov. 8, the Republican president-elect
has made clear he wants to move swiftly to enact proposals he
outlined during the campaign such as simplifying the tax code,
slashing corporate tax rates and repealing and replacing Obama's
signature health insurance program known as Obamacare.
Republicans have long sought to dismantle Obamacare,
insisting it was unworkable and hampered job growth. But they
face a dilemma over how to provide health insurance for the 13.8
million people enrolled in Obamacare who could lose their
coverage. The law aims to provide health insurance to
economically disadvantaged people and expand coverage for
In a Dec. 19 interview with Kentucky Educational Television,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said that
before the election, he assumed Democrats would take back
control of the Senate and hold on to the White House, ending any
talk of repealing Obamacare.
"I didn't think ... Trump had a chance of winning,"
The opposite occurred and now Republicans find they have to
deliver on their campaign promise, even though they have not
agreed on a replacement healthcare program.
The first meeting of the 115th Congress will be full of
ceremony, as the 435 members of the House of Representatives and
a third of the 100-member Senate are sworn in.
Amid the celebration will be a move by House Republicans to
clear the decks for Obamacare repeal.
That will come in the form of a vote on rules governing
House procedures in the two-year term of the chamber. Tucked
into the rules package is a move to prevent Democrats from
slowing or stopping Obamacare repeal legislation because of the
potential cost to the U.S. Treasury of doing so.
Leading Democrats warned on Monday of a fierce battle over
"We're going to fight as hard as ever to protect the ACA
(Affordable Care Act)," said Representative Steny Hoyer, the
House's second-ranking Democrat.
Speaking to reporters, Hoyer and House Democratic leader
Nancy Pelosi said they would launch an effort to mobilize
grassroots support for Obamacare by explaining how repeal would
create a ripple effect hurting a majority of Americans.
Obama is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with congressional
Democrats to discuss strategies for fending off the Republican
attacks on Obamacare.
CABINET, SUPREME COURT NOMINATIONS
The Senate will kick off hearings on Trump's choices to head
his Cabinet departments and other top jobs in the new
It is also expected to receive a Supreme Court nomination
from Trump early in his term to replace conservative Justice
Antonin Scalia, who died last February. Republicans refused to
consider Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland last year.
Prominent Republican Senator John McCain has warned that Rex
Tillerson, Trump's choice for secretary of state, will have to
explain his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin,
whom McCain has called a "thug and a murderer."
Tillerson, who spent much of his career at Exxon Mobil Corp
, has been involved in business dealings in Russia and
opposed U.S. sanctions against Moscow for its incursion into
While McConnell repeatedly called for removing Obamacare
"root and branch," he said in the Kentucky television interview
that his top priorities for the new Congress were dealing with
the "massive overregulation" he said had been a brake on the
U.S. economy and accomplishing tax code changes to stop
companies from moving jobs offshore.
Republican lawmakers also want to curtail or block
regulations aimed at controlling industrial emissions that
contribute to climate change, and roll back banking industry
reforms enacted after the near-collapse of Wall Street in 2008.
Republicans might use upcoming spending bills funding
government agencies to try to kill some of those regulations.
Trump is also expected to try to use his executive powers toward
Republicans will hold a slightly smaller majority in both
the Senate and House than they enjoyed the past two years.
That means Democrats will still have bargaining power,
especially on issues that divide Republicans, such as spending
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter