New Congress will focus on domestic policies first, confirmation of Cabinet nominees

Congressional Republicans plan quick action on several of their top priorities — most notably a measure to clear a path for the Affordable Care Act’s repeal. Perhaps the first thing that will happen in the new Congress is the push for deregulation. Also up early: filling a long-vacant Supreme Court seat, which is sure to set off a pitched showdown, and starting confirmation hearings for Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees.

“It’s a big job to actually have responsibility and produce results,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. “And we intend to do it.”

For Republicans, the path to this moment has been long and transparently paved — the House in particular has signaled the Republican policy vision through bills it has been passing for years. But many of those measures have gathered dust in the Senate.

“If you go too far, like what happened with Obamacare, and you get no support at all from the other side, you have a problem,” said former Majority Leader Trent Lott. “You have to find a way to work with people across the aisle who will work with you.”

The Senate may be narrowly divided, but among the 48 senators in the Democratic caucus are 10 who will stand for re-election in two years in states that voted for Mr. Trump. Republicans are counting on their support, at least some of the time.

The Senate must also consider Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks, and Senate Democrats are already trying to slow the process. However, they cannot do much more than that, because when they were in charge, they changed the rules so that presidential nominees other than Supreme Court picks need only 51 votes to be confirmed. Previously, such nominations could face a filibuster, which required 60 votes to overcome.

While Republicans may have a rare chance to open the flow of legislation, the party’s leaders are acutely aware of the punishment that Americans have historically delivered in midterm elections when things have not gone well.

“This is no time for hubris,” Mr. McConnell said. “You have to perform.”

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With new Congress poised to convene, Obama’s policies are in peril, NY Times, Jan 2, 2017

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