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Republicans poised for Obama assault

on 11/01/2019

A tense new era of political power-sharing dawned in Washington on Wednesday as a new US Congress convened with President Barack Obama’s Republican foes in control of the House of Representatives.

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Newly minted Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned lawmakers they faced “great challenges” on the economy as his party readied a fresh assault on Obama’s agenda with an eye on thwarting his 2012 reelection bid.

“Hard work and tough decisions will be required” at a time when the US economy is struggling to emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Boehner said in his inaugural address.

The Ohio lawmaker choked tears and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief as he took his new office’s symbolic gavel from Nancy Pelosi, the first woman US speaker and now Democratic minority leader.

Fired-up Republicans also enjoyed a stronger Senate minority thanks to a pack of new conservative members who won office on November 2, when voters angry at the sputtering US economy and high unemployment routed Democrats.

Republicans have vowed to slash spending, scrap “job-killing” government regulations, overhaul the tax code, crack down on undocumented immigration, cut diplomatic and foreign aid funds, and investigate the administration.

Republicans set a January 12 vote on repealing Obama’s signature overhaul of US health care — a purely symbolic step because the Democratic Senate majority can block it and the president can veto it.

But the move represents an effort by Boehner, a two-decade veteran of Washington politics, to please the arch-conservative “Tea Party” activists who fueled big Republican gains and view the legislation as Washington overreach.

“The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions,” said Boehner, 61.

Senate Democrats, captained by Majority Leader Harry Reid, planned to push ahead with rules changes that complicate the minority party’s efforts to kill legislation by delaying it or to anonymously block key nominees.

And they warned Republicans would have to break their lockstep opposition to White House-backed initiatives over the past two years in favor of bipartisan compromise in order to deliver on their campaign pledges.

“We have to do even more to help middle-class families, to create jobs, to hasten our energy independence, to improve our children’s education and to fix our broken immigration system,” Reid said.

Republicans aimed to set the tone ahead of Obama’s annual “State of the Union” speech due late this month, a high-profile chance to retool his presidency in the wake of what he has called a ballot-box “shellacking.”

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has urged Obama to unveil proposals to cut spending and major reform of the US tax code, calling those “opportunities for us to work together.”

At the White House, Obama held the traditional post-transition telephone call with Pelosi and Cantor and press secretary Robert Gibbs quipped that the president hoped for a round of golf with Boehner, an avid player.

Gibbs also warned House Republicans against using their newfound powers to investigate the administration to engage in “partisan, ideological, political witch hunts.”

Obama was also re-jigging his inner circle, as Gibbs announced he was leaving amid talk that Clinton-era commerce secretary William Daley, a free-trade champion, could step in as the new White House chief of staff.

The president was also expected to soon name a new chief for his National Economic Council following the departure of Lawrence Summers last year.

Some observers said Obama would seek the political center, knowing that his 2012 reelection hopes may rest with independent voters who could be alienated if Republicans appease the radical right.

Incoming conservatives signaled that while they hoped for compromise, they were not likely to be willing to give ground on items like the health reform law, which they have vowed to repeal.

“We are not going to sacrifice our core beliefs,” incoming congressman Trey Gowdy told Fox News.

But Republicans said they were pulling back from a campaign pledge to find 100 billion dollars in savings their first year, saying the actual figure would run closer to half that amount.


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