January 2011

A changing political environment | Capitol Hill

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A changing political environment

The 112th Congress presents new challenges and opportunities

by Duane L. Musser
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The 112th Congress convened Jan. 5, giving Republicans a majority in the House while Democrats maintain control of the Senate. After picking up 62 House seats in the midterm elections, Republicans have more House seats now than at any time during their 12-year majority from 1995 through 2006. As a result, they should be able to move their legislative agenda through the House.

Republicans also now control all House committees, enabling them to exercise oversight over executive agencies. This may make it more difficult for the Obama administration to move forward with new regulations during the next two years.

Although Democrats still control the Senate, their majority was narrowed. Republican influence in the Senate may be further enhanced if Democrats up for re-election in 2012 vote with Republicans on key issues.

With control of Congress split evenly between the two major parties, substantial bipartisan cooperation will be needed to pass legislation. It certainly is possible—many analysts believe likely—that legislative gridlock will be the primary outcome of the 2010 elections, putting off actions on some issues until...

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