Republicans' New Year's Resolutions: Repeal, Resist and Investigate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama returns from his Hawaiian holiday this week to a changed Washington where Republicans will control the House of Representatives.

But don't count on a new era of bipartisanship any time soon.  Congress's new Republicans and old Democrats are already at war.

Lawmakers sparred Sunday during talk shows about the national debt, for starters.  Even as the debt races toward $14 trillion, some Republicans said they would oppose extending the debt limit beyond the current $14.3 trillion, although such a move could shut down the government.

Republicans are threatening to cut off the ability of the government to borrow money unless spending goes back to where it was before the stimulus and before the banking bailout.

The fight over the national debt is on the horizon.  More immediately, Republicans will start with health-care overhaul, signed into law last year after a bruising, lengthy legislative battle.

One of the first votes of the new Congress in 2011 will be an effort to repeal the health care bill Democrats passed in 2010.  That repeal effort will likely fail in the Senate, which is still controlled by Democrats.  But Republicans will then try to starve the bill of money.

The third line of attack will be investigations.  The new Republican sheriff is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who will chair the House committee in charge of government investigations.  Issa has said he's planning a barrage of hearings on everything from Medicare fraud to the government's failure to prevent the BP oil spill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Goolsbee Warns Tea Party: Don't 'Play Chicken' With Debt Ceiling Vote

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama's top economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, warned Sunday against "playing chicken" with raising the country's debt ceiling, saying it would cause "a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008."

"This is not a game. The debt ceiling is not something to toy with," said Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in an interview with ABC’s This Week.

"If we hit the debt ceiling, that's ... essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history," he said. "The impact on the economy would be catastrophic."

Congress raised the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion last February, but the federal debt is now at $13.9 trillion, meaning the ceiling will need to be raised again this spring to avoid pushing the country into default.

Some conservatives in Congress, especially new Tea Party members, have said they will vote against raising the debt limit again, saying government should drastically cut spending instead. Incoming Republican House Speaker John Boehner has said he will work to convince new members to vote to raise the limit, saying it will be "the first really big adult moment" for the new Republican majority.

Goolsbee said Obama will propose "tough choices" on tackling the nation's spending and deficit problems in his soon-to-be released budget for the next fiscal year.

After more than two years of economic turmoil, 2010 ended with glimmers of positive news for the economy. Holiday sales were up 5.5 percent over 2009, beating expectations. Stocks were also headed in the right direction, with the Dow ending the year up 11 percent and the Nasdaq almost 17 percent. But the unemployment rate has remained stuck at 9.8 percent, only slightly better than it was at this time last year.

"Coming out of the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, it's always a messy, bumpy road to get out of that," Goolsbee said. "You're starting to see encouraging signs, I'd say.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama Plans Staff Changes Upon Washington Return

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will return from his Hawaiian vacation this week to a government divided. His message to the newly empowered Republican Party? Let’s cooperate.

“I'm willing to work with anyone of either party who's got a good idea and the commitment to see it through,” President Obama said in his weekly media address.

The president is also facing changes in the West Wing, with several key players leaving. Heading out on their own accord are National Economic Council Director Larry Summers – said to be replaced by Gene Sperling at the Treasury Department, or Roger Altman, an investment banker – and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for whom a replacement has not yet been named.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod is going to begin work on Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, while the mastermind of the 2008 campaign, David Plouffe, will pick up some of Axelrod’s responsibilities.

Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel left the administration late last year to run for mayor of Chicago. He was replaced, at least for now, by Pete Rouse.

Analysts say we should expect a shake up to the president’s schedule, as well. Some expect President Obama to spend a lot more time outside the Beltway, trying to better connect with voters in the run up to 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


For the Kennedys: The End of an Era

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The sun has set on the Kennedy era. When Congress reconvenes next week, it will be the first time in 64 years that there has not been a Kennedy in office.

The last Kennedy -- Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island -- has officially left the building, saying, "my life is taking a new direction and I will not be a candidate for reelection."

His father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, died in 2009. Now, the new frontier on Capitol Hill has a distinctly Republican flavor. Replacing the Kennedys as the only father-son team on the Hill are Rep. Ron Paul and Senator-elect Rand Paul, both Tea Party Republicans.

John F. Kennedy launched the family franchise in 1947 when, at age 30, he joined the U.S. Congress. He spent six years as a congressman and eight years as a senator, fighting for civil rights and social welfare. In 1961, he moved to the White House, famously calling on Americans to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He brought with him his two brothers in to the political fray: Robert became attorney general and then senator, and Ted would be elected to the Senate too.

The attention attracted to the family's glamour, intellect and occasional scandal would last decades and help propel Ted Kennedy to serve almost 47 years in Congress. He championed Medicare, rights for the disabled, and health care reform. His son, Patrick, and Robert's son, Joe, also followed in the Kennedy footsteps serving as Congressmen.

It's a legacy of triumph, tragedy and a national fascination with Democratic Party's first family. John and Robert were both assassinated, and Ted Kennedy famously pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a deadly car accident at Chappaquiddick.

Still, there is a new generation of young Kennedys who have yet to pick up the torch of public service. It's possible the sun has not set on Camelot for good.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Incoming New Hampshire Senator Sets Republican Agenda

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the first Republican address of the new year, Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire laid out the GOP agenda for 2011.

“The American people sent us to Congress with clear instructions,” Ayotte said. “Make government smaller, not bigger, and stop spending money that we don't have on programs that aren't working.”

She said a top priority for the new Congress is to tackle the budget deficit.

"As the mother of two children, I'm like parents across the country who worry that our nearly $14 trillion debt threatens America's economic future and our children's future.”

Those in Washington have to get serious about meaningful debt reduction, she said, adding that it’s “an American problem that requires tough decision making from both parties.”

Another priority, Ayotte said in the GOP address, is to create conditions favorable for businesses to add jobs in the new year.

“With millions of Americans unemployed or underemployed, we must work quickly to jumpstart our economy.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Look Congress: What Does the GOP Have in Store?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The New Year brings with it a new Congress, and with Republicans now in charge of the House and more powerful in the Senate, what does it all mean for President Obama?

“I think in a word it will be an assertive Congress," said Pat Toomey, the new Senator from Pennsylvania. One hundred Republicans join Congress this week, many of them – including Toomey – aligned with the Tea Party.

Already, with the shellacking of the midterms, there’s been a mood shift. A move to ban earmarks. Some compromise. Bipartisanship on tax cuts. But Hill veterans are warning newcomers to temper their expectations.

“That fire, that anger, that vehicle for ‘I'm going to do things differently,’” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., “They may find that they have to work together…they may have to come together and compromise.”

So what’s on the docket for the next Congress? Many in the GOP have their sights set on repealing health care.

"If Republicans decide they're going to spend the first six months of the year going over and debating the individual mandate, or Obamacare,” said ABC News political director Amy Walter, “I think that is not going to go very well with the electorate."

Republicans have also said they want to cut spending, but they have not been clear on what they will cut. Cutting taxes remains a priority, and the White House says it is open to that idea if those cuts create jobs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Alaska Senate Race Finally Over; Miller Concedes to Murkowski

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JUNEAU, Alaska) -- Tea Party favorite Joe Miller on Friday conceded defeat to Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's senate race, bowing out one day after the state certified Murkowski's win.

Miller, who had been endorsed by former Governor Sarah Palin, defeated the incumbent Murkowski in a Republican primary and was seen as the likely winner.  Murkowski launched a strong write-in campaign that overwhelmed Miller on election day.

Miller could have appealed the latest of three court rulings against him or fought to overturn the state certification.  He chose not to, indicating he felt he was still correct but that the courts would not see it that way.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Is President Obama's New Year's Resolution?

Photo Courtesy - The White House | Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama’s New Year’s resolution is to grow the economy and create jobs, he declares in his weekly address, his first address of the new year.
“Our most important task now is to keep that recovery going.  As president, that’s my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class.  That’s my resolution for the coming year.”
As the president winds down his vacation ahead of his return to Washington, D.C., next week, he previews the year that lies ahead, facing a different political reality than when he rang in the new year last year.
“In a few days, a new Congress will form, with one house controlled by Democrats, and one house controlled by Republicans -- who now have a shared responsibility to move this country forward.  And here’s what I want you to know: I’m willing to work with anyone of either party who’s got a good idea and the commitment to see it through.”
The president says he expects Americans to hold both parties accountable for “our progress or our failure” to deliver on those commitments.
Noting that this New Year closes a “difficult decade,” the president calls for a period of progress with the new decade that lays before the nation.
“We have come through a difficult decade; one of new threats and new trials we didn’t expect when it began.  But a new year and a new decade stretch out before us.  And if we just remember what America is capable of, and live up to that legacy, then I’m confident that we are poised for a period of progress.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chief Justice John Roberts Issues Yearly Report on the State of the Judiciary

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his yearly report on the state of the Judiciary released at 6 p.m. on New Years Eve, Chief Justice John Roberts expresses concern that budgetary constraints due to the economic down turn and the "persistent problem" of judicial vacancies are hampering the work of the Judicial Conference to plan for the future.

The Conference -- the federal judiciary's policy-making body -- is made up of all the chief  judges of the federal court of appeals as well as district court judges from each regional circuit. Roberts serves as the presiding officer of the Conference and issues a report annually on Dec. 31.

In the report, the Chief Justice points out that the Conference approved a strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary last September that identifies long term issues "critical to the future operation of the federal courts" but says that there are "obstacles" obstructing its success.

"There are, however, some immediate obstacles to achieving our goals." Roberts writes, "Two stand out at the beginning of this new year: an economic downturn that has imposed budgetary constraints throughout the government, and the persistent problem of judicial vacancies in critically overworked districts."

Roberts says that "the judiciary’s central objective is, of course, to do justice according to law in every case."  But accomplishing such and objective requires focus on issues such as a court's public resources, its workforce of judges and staff and the rules that provide litigants with reasonable and economical access to the judicial process.

He recognizes the economic down turn and describes  the work that all levels of the Judiciary have done to reduce costs. But he says, "The judiciary’s needs are strikingly modest compared to the government as a whole -- less than two-tenths of one percent of the federal budget for one of the three constitutional branches of government."

"We will strive to reduce costs where possible," Roberts writes, "but we ask in return that our coordinate branches of government continue to provide the financial resources that the courts must have to carry out their vital mission."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Gov. Rendell Defends Bloomberg, Talks Life Post-Governorship

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has been a vocal critic of the NFL’s decision to postpone last weekend’s Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Viking game due to inclement weather, lamenting that “we’re becoming a nation of wussies.”  But Rendell on Friday came to the defense of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s under fire for what many see as the city’s poor response to the snowstorm.

“It was difficult to predict, it came very quickly and swiftly,” Rendell told ABC News. “New York’s had a very good track record of snow removal and…you can’t hit a home run every time at bat and even the best players in sports have bad days. I don’t know what happened in New York. I know some areas were clean better than others, but by and large, the Bloomberg administration does a very good job on things like this.”

As for his future post-governorship, Rendell played down chatter that he had been picked as the new White House chief of staff.

“ I don’t have the stature that Colin Powell has,” said Rendell, who sees the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the ideal candidate for the job. “I don’t think hardly anybody in America has that stature of non-partisanship, acting in the good of the country. I think that’s what we need.”

“If they are going to replace [acting Chief of Staff] Peter Rouse or keep Peter as a deputy, I’d love to see [ex U.S. Senator] Tom Daschle. I think he’s another person who could bring this together very effectively."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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