Congress returns for lame-duck session following elections - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Congress returns for lame-duck session following elections

(Capitol Hill-AP) Nov. 15, 2004 - Congress has a lot on its plate as members return for a lame-duck session, the first since the elections.

US House and Senate negotiators still haven't reached agreement on implementing the recommendations of the Nine-Eleven Commission. The main stumbling block is how much budgetary power should be given to the new national intelligence director.

Congress will also vote on spending bills for most governmental agencies for the fiscal year that started last month. It'll also have to approve an increase in the federal debt limit.

For lawmakers who were defeated in their re-election bids and those retiring, this is a time to begin packing up their offices. Their replacements are already starting to learn the ropes.

South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint is attending the orientation sessions for newly-elected members of the House and Senate that began Sunday. The so called freshman class will also pose for a picture on the steps of the Capitol. DeMint defeated Democrat Inez Tenenbaum for the seat held by retiring Democrat Fritz Holling.

GOP leaders will soon be looking to the Republicans among them to bolster their majorities on the most contentious issues ahead.

Senate Republicans face a potential split over whether Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter will take over the judiciary committee. Specter has come under fire for his response, when asked about the confirmation chances for a prospective Bush nominee who opposes abortion, he said, "When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely."

Conservatives worry Specter's pro-abortion rights stance will mean the president's nominees won't get a fair hearing. Senate Majority Leader Bill First of Tennessee says, "I do as I've said over the last several days expect that chairman to have a predisposition to support these nominees by the president."

Specter counters that he has voted for all Bush nominees so far, including those opposed to abortion. That will likely help Specter get his high-power post. But the flap has signaled that judge nominees headed to his committee for confirmation likely won't agree with him on abortion rights.

Senate Democrats are expected to okay Nevada's Harry Reid as minority leader.

posted 10:10am by Chris Rees

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