- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2015

Republicans said Sunday that the new GOP-led Congress will worker longer hours and force lawmakers to take tough votes that define elected officials for their constituents.

“It’ll be an opportunity for the first time in really six years for people to see how their elected senators really feel about these issues,” Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, said Sunday on CNN. “You’re going to see the Senate working five days a week, working Fridays like the rest of America, actually sending legislation, looking at amendments.”

The Republicans, led by incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will take control of the Senate when lawmakers come back to Washington this week after a wave election in November saw many Democrats lose their jobs, despite Democratic leaders trying to protect their members from making difficult votes that could be used against them in an election.

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he’ll focus the Senate’s agenda on jobs and the economy, including approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, pushing back against what the president’s use of executive actions, and repealing all or pieces of President Obama’s signature health care law.

“I think the message from the American people is they’d like to see a right of center, conservative governing majority,” he said on CNN. “Hopefully we’ll have enough followers to do that.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Sunday on “Face the Nation” that Democrats would try to add amendments to the Keystone XL bill to ensure it creates more jobs — like requiring the steel used to be made in America.

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But he still said he would encourage Mr. Obama to veto the bill.

“These amendments will make it better but certainly not good enough at this point in time and I think there will be enough Democratic votes to sustain the president’s veto,” he said.

Mr. McConnell said he’s eager to negotiate with both the president and vice president to get Washington moving, but acknowledged that Mr. Obama may veto some of his party’s priorities.

“We will be voting on things I know he’s not going to like. I hope we can put them on this desk,” he said.

It’s not just Republicans who are excited to open the Senate up for debate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said she’s working in a bipartisan way to undo the medical device tax, though she’s not clear yet on where she’ll find the revenue the tax would have brought in.

“We can finally govern from a position of opportunity, not crisis,” she said.

Democrats may be willing to chip away at some of the more controversial pieces of Obamacare, but Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said the Senate will vote on full repeal, even though the president would certainly veto that bill.

Another priority for a Republican Senate: a debate on comprehensive immigration reform that looks at how to strengthen border security and what to do with the undocumented immigrants who crossed the border into the U.S. this summer.

“I think the first thing we’ll do is a strong border security bill,” Mr. Wicker said. “I think once we do that we will have a debate in this term of Congress about what to do with those children who came through no decision of their own, I think we’ll have that debate.”

He also emphasized that a major policy change like this needs to be done through legislation with the support of Congress, issuing another rebuke on the president’s unilateral executive order last year.

Sen.-elect Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said that one of his priorities is getting Congress back in a normal budget process. Though he acknowledged lawmakers won’t be able to fix all the country’s problems in the next two years, he said they can make large strides before 2016.

“First we have to pass a budget,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We also need to admit big challenges facing the country aren’t going to be fixed in the next 24 months.”

He also said he would vote to raise the debt ceiling, as long as it’s part of a process to rein in out of control spending.

Rep.-elect Barbara Comstock, Virginia Republican, said she wants to debate immigration reform in the House, but thinks it’ll be easier to have that discussion if lawmakers first address jobs and the economy.

“I do think immigration should be done piece by piece,” she said. “But I think that discussion will be easier with a booming economy.”



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