Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Congressional Calendar January 5, 2010

Wednesday will be the first day for the 112th Congress.

The House and Senate will convene at 12:00 p.m. ET.

After receiving the certificates of election from the states and taking an attendance vote, the House will start the process to select the next Speaker. Democrats will nominate Nancy Pelosi of California. Republicans will nominate Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. We expect all Republicans to vote for Boehner. We do not expect all Democrats to vote for Pelosi. Since there are more Republicans than Democrats participating in the vote, Boehner should win.

Speaker-elect Boehner will then be introduced by Pelosi and deliver brief remarks to the members-elect in the chamber.

Afterwards, the Dean of the House Caucus, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., will administer the oath of office to the Speaker-elect. Boehner, now House Speaker, will then administer the oath of office to the new members, who will each have an individual ceremonial swearing in just off the House Chamber. There will be lots of tears.

Supporters from Boehner's home district arrived via bus from Ohio Wednesday evening and will watch a live feed of the ceremony from the nearby Cannon House Office Building.

After the 112th Congress is sworn in, the new Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, R-Va., will call up the House rules package at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET. This document, if approved, will govern how the chamber will conduct its business for the next two years.

The Senate will also swear in reelected and newly elected senators Wednesday afternoon at approximately 1:00p.m. ET. It should take about two hours to finish. They'll also select the majority and minority leaders. They should be the same as the previous Congress: Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The new leaders will then hold their weekly policy lunches, followed by back-to-back media availabilities at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., will introduce a resolution to open the Senate rules to allow for a change in the rule governing the use of the filibuster. Udall's argument rests on the presumption that the Senate is not a continuing body, but rather that the Constitution allows it to set its own rules. A former Senate Parliamentarian says that a maneuver like this has never been attempted before.

We'll be following all these stories and more, so stay with Fox News for all the latest.

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Gibbs to Depart White House for Role

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is stepping down as the chief spokesman for the White House to become an outside adviser to the president and his re-election campaign, Fox News has confirmed.

No successor has been immediately named. But Gibbs told The New York Times, which first reported the departure, that a replacement will likely be announced within the next two weeks.

Gibbs' departure from the briefing room podium is part of a broader shakeup in President Obama's senior leadership team as the White House pivots to deal with a new era of divided power in Washington.

Gibbs will leave after Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the end of this month, a senior administration official told Fox News. While Gibbs will no longer be the face of the administration, he will still be giving speeches on behalf of the president and making TV appearances.

"Stepping back will take some adjusting," Gibbs told The New York Times in an interview Wednesday morning. "But at the same time, I have a feeling that I will keep myself quite busy, not just with speaking, but continuing to help the president."

Obama praised Gibbs in a written statement and said he would remain a close adviser.

"For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward," he said. "I think it's natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool. That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House -- but it doesn't change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team."

The leading candidates to replace Gibbs include deputy press secretaries Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, and Jay Carney, a spokesman for Vice President Biden.

Another possible White House departure on the horizon: Obama's interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, who has been heading a staff review that is expected to result in some West Wing shakeups. Obama is considering tapping former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley to replace Rouse.

David Plouffe, the architect of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, is expected to be in the White House as soon as next week as an adviser to the president. One of the president's most trusted advisers, David Axelrod, is leaving this month; he is expected to take a break and recharge for a central role in the 2012 re-election campaign.

Obama is also expected to have a new chief economic adviser and two new deputy chiefs of staff.

All the changes are aimed at dealing with a Republican-led House and a Senate with a slimmer Democratic majority.

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112th Congress Officially Convenes

The 112th Congress was called to order at noon Wednesday at which time a benediction was read, the Pledge of Allegiance recited and a record of everyone's presence was ordered.

And even as the first call of the House was ordered, new and returning lawmakers went past the 15 minutes allotted for a quorum vote. In the end, only 434 of the 435 members voted present. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who is starting his 13th term, was absent though the reason was not immediately known.

Over in the Senate, lawmakers started their session with new members signing an oath book declaring their allegiance to the Constitution. Vice President Joe Biden then started swearing in members four at a time, starting with Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

As the Congress prepared to meet, a reception was held for House Speaker-Designate John Boehner, who was joined by 10 of his 11 siblings at his swearing in as the 53rd House speaker. Hundreds of festive and loud supporters silenced as soon as the House went into session and the prayer and pledge were read.

But even as they enjoyed the pomp of opening ceremonies accompanied by family on the House floor, Republicans are thinking about first actions -- including budget cutting and a vote to repeal the health care law.

Though Republicans pledged to cut $100 billion in the first year that is not obligated to entitlements, defense and homeland security, they began backtracking almost immediately, noting that they only have half a budget year to work with since government is operating on a continuing resolution until March and the budget year is Oct. 1-Sept. 30. With little more than half a budget year, that's only half of the cuts they say they will get.

"House Republicans will continue to work to reduce spending for the final six months of this fiscal year -- bringing non-security discretionary spending back to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels -- yielding taxpayers significant savings and starting a new era of cost cutting in Washington," Conor Sweeney, spokesman for new House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, told Fox News.

House Republicans have also pledged to cut $35 million from their own congressional budget. Imminent Rep. Kristie Noem, R-S.D., considered an up and coming leader and Tea Party budget hawk, said Republicans will "step forward and start cutting money and they're going to start with themselves."

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