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New Millennium's First Congress
To Convene Split Nearly Even
Congress will appropriately enough be kicking off the new year and the new millennium with historical firsts when it is sworn in today.
Hillary Clinton is the first presidential spouse to enter Congress.
Never has the wife of a president taken her oath alongside the nation's other elected lawmakers. Never has the Senate been divided 50-50 between two parties. Not since the early 1950s has Congress been so evenly split. And not since the mid-1950s have Republicans had control of both the legislative and the executive branches of the federal government.
It will be a bittersweet moment for the first family when Hillary Clinton is sworn in as the junior senator from New York. Her husband, President Clinton, reluctantly leaving office in only 17 days, will be watching from the visitors' gallery above the Senate floor. The oath will be read to her by Vice President Al Gore, the man whom they'd hoped would be the successor to the White House. And when Congress begins its work, the first lady will be thrust into a Capitol building where a Republican president will be working to cut taxes and loosen the federal grip on many programs.
On the other side, Senate GOP leaders are already having to deal with Democratic demands for equal committee memberships and opportunities to speak in the chamber.
"We don't have everything worked out," but the two sides are close, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Tuesday after meeting again with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Including Clinton, 11 new senators and 41 new House members will be among the 34 senators and 434 House members sworn into office, with a vacancy in the House from last month's death of Rep. Julian Dixon, D-Calif.
The new Congress will continue the GOP control of both chambers that began in 1995.
But even with two branches technically in his pocket, Bush will govern under the shadow of his excruciatingly close presidential election victory over Gore, who won the popular vote by 500,000 but lost in the electoral college.
The nation's ambivalence toward the parties was also reflected in the Senate's 50-50 division, which in turn was almost matched by the House's slender GOP majority of 221-211, plus two independents evenly divided between the parties and the vacancy.
But because Republican Dick Cheney will become vice president on Jan. 20, when he and Bush are inaugurated, the GOP will eventually control the Senate. Under the chamber's rules, the vice president can vote to break ties.
Not since the 83rd Congress, elected in 1952, have the two chambers been so closely cleaved. Then, the GOP held the House 221-213, with one independent, and the Senate by 48-47, plus an independent who sided with Republicans.
Democrats will control the Senate for the first 17 days of the session, because Gore will be vice president until former Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Cheney take their oaths. During that time, Daschle will be majority leader giving him the right to be recognized to speak first and thus set the Senate's agenda.
Consistent with their party's demands for power sharing, Democratic leaders said they would not attempt to ram anything through the Senate during their brief period in the majority.
They also said they would let committees begin meeting quickly to prepare some of Bush's picks for top administration jobs for Senate confirmation. That could come as early as Jan. 22, the Monday after Bush becomes president.
Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will be returning to his second two-year stint in the House's leadership position of speaker.
But there won't be familiar faces among many committee chairmen, thanks to a House GOP rule that allows chairmen to serve no more than six years.
Both chambers will meet in joint session on Saturday for Congress' ceremonial task of reading the electoral votes that made Bush the next president.
After that, the House will not be at work until early February. Some Senate committees will work through the month on nominations, but little other work in that chamber is expected.
Scores of parties were planned across Capitol Hill. Underlining the significance of raising money for lawmakers, at least one of them freshman Rep.-elect Mark Kirk, R-Ill. scheduled a fund-raising dinner Wednesday night at a Washington restaurant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
-- dfgf (email@example.com), January 03, 2001
AnswersSHE IS EVIL
-- JON (JON@AOL.com), January 05, 2001.
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