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April 24, 2014

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New Nevada lawmakers sworn into divided Congress

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Members of the 113th Congress, many accompanied by family members, take the oath of office in the House of Representatives chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.

Nevada now officially has six representatives in Congress, after the new members of the 113th Congress were officially sworn in Thursday afternoon.

New Democratic Reps. Steven Horsford, from the 4th Congressional District, and Dina Titus, from the 1st Congressional District, took the oath of office on the floor of the House with the rest of the members en masse. Incumbent Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck also participated in the re-swearing in.

Horsford was elected to Nevada's newest congressional district, created during reapportionment last year.

Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller took their oaths in the noon hour, escorting one another down the center aisle of the Senate before meeting Vice President Joe Biden in the well, where he administered the oath.

Heller, a Republican, got a little hug from new Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts before being sworn in. Heller and Warren’s predecessor, Sen. Scott Brown, were the two incumbent Republicans who were most in danger of losing their seats in the 2012 election. Brown lost to Warren, while Heller bested Rep. Shelley Berkley by 12,127 votes.

Berkley’s 14-year career in Congress officially ended at 11 a.m. Tuesday, when the 112th session of the House of Representatives closed for business, sine die.

The opening of a new Congress is usually an opportunity for a fresh start. But it was clear in the speeches of the leaders – once again, Reid is at the helm in the Senate and John Boehner will be Speaker of the House – that the New Year will be a time to settle a lot of old business.

“Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs,” Boehner said. “At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state.”

On Tuesday, Congress adopted a fiscal deal that permanently freezes the Bush administration tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000, along with several other tax provisions. But lawmakers failed to come up with the sort of grand bargain that would have also settled lingering questions about spending cuts, the growing size of the national debt, and how far the government’s borrowing authority should be extended.

In fact, Congress failed through several rounds of attempts to come up with such a grand bargain, a track record that has led most pundits and the public as well to rate this Congress as one of the least productive on record.

Reid tried to dispel some of that lingering review by praising the fiscal cliff deal, in his opening remarks to the newly-sworn in 113th Senate.

“It has been said that the 112th Congress was characterized by some of the sharpest political divisions in recent memory,” Reid said. “But during the last Congress, there were also many commendable examples of compromise. That is something of which we can all be proud.”

That spirit of compromise will be challenged in another 60 days, when Congress will have to deal with the new deadline for the onset of across-the-board sequestration cuts and the expiration of the government’s borrowing authority.

In the Senate, the first test will come even sooner.

Before the fiscal cliff negotiations entered their last few frenetic weeks, lawmakers had been engaging in fierce debate over the Senate rules – namely, whether or not Reid would force the Senate to make changes to the use of the filibuster.

Reid acknowledged that Congress had been too distracted by more pressing matters recently to raise the matter of rules right away. It is usually the custom of the Senate to vote on its rules on the first day of session.

That vote, Reid said, will come “later this month,” once they’ve had a chance to start hashing through some of their differences again.

“We will reserve the right of all Senators to propose changes to the Senate rules,” Reid said. “We will explicitly not acquiesce in the carrying-over of all the rules from the last Congress.”

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  1. Sounds like Harry is getting ready to use the nuclear option in anticipation of having four years to ram what he wants down everyone's throats. And if he retires after this term, he won't have to worry about paybacks, either.

    I think that would be a risky move.