Monday, January 5, 2009

Opening Day

Tomorrow both houses of Congress meet to start the 111th congress.  There are a couple of things to watch for when both houses convene at 12:00 p.m. EST.

In the Senate, watch the soap opera regarding the seating of Roland Burris.  There is some debate about if the Senate can actually refuse to seat Mr. Burris.  The Supreme Court decision of Powell vs. McCormick seems to say the Senate cannot but there is still some debate.  Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would instruct the Sergeant at Arms, and if need be the Capitol Police, to bar Mr Burris from entering the Senate floor.  

Over in the House, there will be two new rule change that might affect how they legislate.  When each Congress mets, the House has to reconstitute itself.  They have to elect their officers and decide on the rules that will govern House proceedings.  One rule change involves a Motion to Recommit.  This is a last ditch effort to send a bill from the floor back to committee to change the bill.  In practice this is an effort to kill a bill by sending it back to committee or by adding a controversial amendment.  The rule change will only allow one motion to recommit and in effect the change to the bill would be voted on immediately on the House floor and then the vote on the underlying bill.  This would allow the minority to make a needed change but prevent them from killing the bill.

Also the House will repeal the rule that limits committee chairs to only six years of service as head of a particular committee.  The GOP instituted the rule when they took control in 1995 but they often made exceptions.  It will be interesting to see how these rules allow various centers of power to develop in the House.

Remember both the House and Senate convene t noon EST.  Enjoy the 111th Congress.

Background on the 1st day proceedings in the House can be found here courtesy of the House Rules Committee

And the Senate here

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