Congress faces leaders in Flux, big post-election to-do list
By LISA MASCARO and FARNOUSH AMIRI, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is returning to an extremely volatile post-election landscape, with House control still undecided, a shifting party leadership and a potentially consequent lame session with same-sex marriage legislation, Ukraine and government funding.
Newly elected members of Congress arrived for Monday’s orientation amid shocking disappointments for Republicans, framing tough internal party leadership elections for GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. Republicans suffered one of the most disappointing midterm results in decades when a powerful red wave predicted for the House never hit.
Democrats performed better than expected, keeping tight control of the Senate and pressing a long race for the House. But they, too, face leadership turmoil as Republicans win House seats toward majority control that would threaten Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.
“There are all kinds of ways to exert influence,” Pelosi said Sunday, deflecting questions about his future if Democrats lose control of the House. “Speaker has awesome power, but I will always have influence.”
It’s a changed spot on Capitol Hill in the wake of the first election since the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising, with the Republican Party divided over its ties to former President Donald Trump, Democrats considering generational leadership changes and Biden with just a few weeks left. achieve goals with guaranteed democratic control from Washington. Much of the action will take place behind closed doors in private caucus meetings.
Against that backdrop, McCarthy tried to quell the unrest by asking his GOP colleagues for support ahead of Tuesday’s closed-door election, which would put him in line to take the House Speaker’s gavel from Pelosi, D-Calif. , if Republicans overturn majority control.
“I will be a listener as much as a president, striving for consensus from the bottom up rather than ordering the agenda from the top down,” McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote in a letter to his GOP colleagues.
But McCarthy enters the race for the speaker a weakened leader, faced with his party’s losses and the demands of his restless right flank, led by the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and its ties to Trump. The former president backs McCarthy for president, but Freedom Caucus lawmakers are calling for the election to be postponed.
“I certainly don’t think we should have an election until we’ve counted everything and know what our numbers are,” said Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy, R-Texas.
Among the newly elected lawmakers, Republican Cory Mills, an Army fighting veteran who won an open seat in Florida, said, “You’ve got real races that haven’t been called yet and you want to get out and have leadership votes?”
But Mike Lawler, who inflicted a landslide defeat in New York on Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic campaign committee, said McCarthy had “my full support.”
The uproar unfolding on Capitol Hill comes as Trump is set to announce his 2024 White House bid on Tuesday. The GOP is torn between those who remain loyal to the former president and those who blame him for the losses mid-term and prefer to drop his “Make America Great Again” brand. Some lawmakers have begged to join Trump at his Mar-A-Lago club for the announcement because of their own work on Capitol Hill.
“The Republican Party has a choice,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. said Sunday, “I say to Republican senators and Leader McConnell, we stand ready to work with you to advance the things for the American people.”
Funding to keep the government past the Dec. 16 funding deadline, aid to Ukraine, and bipartisan legislation that would protect same-sex marriages from possible Supreme Court challenges in states where they have Legal summers are all top priorities in the final weeks of the year. .
But McConnell faces his own turmoil within the party ahead of Wednesday’s closed-door leadership race, which his right flank also wants to postpone as they examine what went wrong in the midterm elections. in general and that the race in Georgia is now heading for a second round on December 6.
“We need to have serious discussions,” said a draft letter led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and signed by a handful of other GOP senators.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., put it more bluntly in a tweet: “The old party is dead. It’s time to bury him. Build something new.
Democrats have pushed back their own internal elections until after Thanksgiving, when Pelosi said she would decide whether she would seek to stay on as party leader.
A younger generation of Democrats is eager to take the reins of the House once Pelosi and top leaders Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina decide whether to stay or go.
At the same time, lawmakers are gearing up for a final week-long legislative sprint of this session — potentially the last chance Biden will have with Democratic control of Congress and monopoly party power in Washington.
On the agenda are must-have bills — primarily funding to keep the government going or risk a federal shutdown. The Tories are eager to use the December funding deadline to begin extracting their policy priorities from McCarthy, in particular their promises to cut spending and refuse to raise the national debt ceiling.
The fiscal showdown, which is also expected to include a round of disaster funding for Florida and other hurricane-hit regions, could be a preview of what comes next in the new year.
The outgoing Congress is also working quickly to secure another round of funding for Ukraine to fight Russia, especially after McCarthy signaled that Republicans will refuse to provide a “blank check” for overseas spending.
One of Biden and his party’s top priorities is post-January. 6 Legislation to modernize the Electoral Count Act, an update of the late 19th century law.
Additionally, a landmark bill that would require recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages in states where they are legal has won support from both sides, amid concerns the Supreme Court could overturn marriage protections. He is promised for a vote in the Senate after already passing the House.
Legislation helping young immigrants known as Dreamers in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program stay in the United States is also under consideration.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
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