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Republican Era Begins (At Least In U.S. House)

Jan 3, 2011

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Frank James

Welcome to the new year, same as the old year, at least as far as partisanship is concerned.

Actually, it's really the same as the last 211 years, give or take, since fierce partisanship in U.S. politics dates back at least to the time of the founder of the original Republican Party, Thomas Jefferson, and his nemesis, the Federalist Party's John Adams.

Republicans take control of the House this week which, mercifully, will let all of us finally refer to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as the House speaker instead of the much clunkier speaker-designate or speaker-in-waiting.

Speaking of Boehner, the Washington Post reports the celebrations of his assumption of power will be less robust than the festivities surrounding Rep. Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker in 2006.

Of course, she broke one of the thickest glass ceilings in America by becoming the nation's first woman speaker, which explained the partying mood.

Another big difference: the nation's brush with a double digit unemployment rate and the accompanying economic anxiety.

In any event, anyone who thought 2011 would find the political lions lying down with the lambs (are there any such non cynics still around) likely had their hopes dashed by reports over the weekend.

There were weekend reports that House Republicans could vote as soon as this week to repeal the health-care overhaul law.

A Politico.com report indicates that vote may not happen as soon as that but is likely to occur before the president's State of the Union speech which will likely happen in late January or early February.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who will chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was still using the words "Obama" and "corrupt" in the same sentence.

Apparently moderating what he told Rush Limbaugh some months ago, Issa said on Sunday that he erred in calling "President Obama one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times."

Instead, he should have ascribed the moral failings to the president's administration. This is a distinction unlikely to improve relations between Issa and the White House.

Also unlikely to improve relations will be Issa's investigations into the administration's handling of a number of policies, including the TARP rescue of financial institutions and WikiLeaks.

My colleague Mark Memmott has a Two-Way blog post which summarizes some of the early action items before the new Republican-controlled House and the still Democratic-controlled Senate.

One of the most important is raising the debt ceiling. The debate over the debt ceiling is one we'll be watching closely.

Many experts, including those in the White House like Council of Economic Advisers chairman Austan Goolsbee, say if congressional Republicans, under pressure from Tea Party conservatives, don't approve a higher debt limit, it would set off an economic and financial disaster unlike anything seen before since, even during the worst of past calamities, the U.S. never defaulted on its debts.

But there's a first time for everything and some Republicans are bravely sounding as though they wouldn't mind running the experiment.

So the debt ceiling clash will be very interesting to watch because of the stark clash it will represent between campaigning and governing.

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