Saturday, January 06, 2007

It's official: Democrats are in charge on Capitol Hill

The 110th Congress of the United States convened Thursday, with Democrats in control for the first time in twelve years.

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA; pictured) was elected the first female Speaker of the House. Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in US political history, and as Speaker of the House, she is second in line to become president after the Vice President. (Read the transcript of Pelosi's address on becoming Speaker.)

As an added bonus, Democrats from Michigan will chair two committees, three subcommittees, and the Congressional Black Caucus.

In the Senate, Harry Reid (D-NV) became the new Majority Leader, while Mitch McConnell (R-KY) replaces former senator Bill Frist as Republican Leader. Here's a
transcript of Reid's Opening Speech. Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney gave the oath of office to 10 new senators and 23 Senators who were re-elected in November, including Debbie Stabenow, the #4 Democrat in the Senate. For his part, Carl Levin will chair the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Democrats appear intent on hitting the ground running on Iraq, ethics reform, health care, and renewable energy, among other issues.

Now, skeptics may say that, because Bush still has the power to veto legislation, the Democrats will have little power. First, when the Democrats pass legislation through Congress and fsend it to the White House, one of three things will happen:

1. Bush will sign it.
2. Bush will veto it, but the veto will be overridden.
3. Bush will veto it, and Republicans will stop it from being overridden. If this is the case, then Republicans such as John McCain and Sam Brownback - both of whom are likely candidates for President - will be on record opposing ideas that are likely to be popular.

Second, the GOP Congress has consistently given Bush a 'blank check' to do whatever he wants. If Bush wanted it, Congress gave it to him. With Democrats in charge, he will not be able to get what he wants as easily as he used to. This is what James Madison and the framers of the Constitution desired when they implemented the system of checks and balances into our Constitution. Now let's make sure Democrats in Congress live up to what we expect of them.


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