Still sorting out the verdict of the voters in last week’s elections, the Congress is back at work in Washington, D.C., not only looking ahead to a new Trump Administration, but also trying to figure out how to avoid a government shutdown early next month in yet another political spat over the federal budget – though the results of the elections were obviously looming over the Capitol.
The House Chaplain, Rev. Pat Conroy, welcomed lawmakers back by invoking last week’s election results in his opening prayer.
“May we all be mindful of the great history we have, of coming together in the wake of contentious elections,” the Chaplain said.
But it only took six minutes for the House floor to be immersed in the battles from the campaign.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) lobbed the first verbal shot, denouncing the choice of Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon for a top White House job in the Trump Administration.
“Donald Trump’s hateful campaign has divided our nation,” McCollum said.
McCollum’s jabs at Trump drew the ire of the chair, as lawmakers were warned against directly criticizing the GOP nominee for President.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) followed immediately with a broadside at the news media, accusing them of going all-in against Donald Trump’s campaign.
“Until the news media gives the American people the facts, rather than expressing their opinions, there is no reason to believe what they say or write,” Smith said on the House floor, as he again accused the press of being biased against Republicans.
“The liberal media tried to destroy Donald Trump,” Smith added. “Instead they destroyed their own credibility.”
While we are likely to hear more about the elections in coming days, lawmakers also have to move on, and get focused on their work, mainly the December 9 deadline for action on a spending plan for Uncle Sam; that usually means lawmakers can expect a massive “omnibus” spending bill, which rolls all the yearly budget bills into one giant measure.
GOP leaders like Sen. McConnell would rather wrap things up as fast as possible after Thanksgiving, and get ready for 2017, when the GOP will control both houses of Congress and the White House.
But that classic year-end approval of an omnibus spending bill has often left many Republicans grumbling about spending they oppose.
Much of that consternation would likely be focused back on Speaker Paul Ryan, who has had an unsettled relationship with more conservative members of the Freedom Caucus; but as of now, Ryan is fully expected to be nominated again for Speaker when Republicans meet to vote on Tuesday on their House leaders for 2017.
No change is expected for Republicans in the Senate, despite some similar grumbling from conservatives about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As for Democrats, their House leader Nancy Pelosi scheduled leadership elections for later this week on Thursday, but there has been some resistance to that bubbling up within the Democratic Caucus.
A report from Politico said on Monday that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) was considering a challenge to Pelosi, though any such bid seems a long shot. A delay in those elections seems unlikely as well.
In the Senate, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is getting ready to be the new Democratic Leader in 2017, replacing the retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).
Congress will be in session this week, then off until after Thanksgiving.