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October 5, 2015

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Leaders delay act of compromise on first day of lame-duck session


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Newly elected congressman Steven Horsford gives his acceptance speech during the Nevada State Democrats’ election night party early Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 at Mandalay Bay.

Washington officially got back to business Tuesday, as the House of Representatives and the Senate simultaneously gaveled in for a final session that already is shaping up to be a hard slog to the finish.

“As we close the 112th Congress, it is time to focus on our shared goals and our common purpose,” Sen. Harry Reid said as he opened the Senate for business. “Great challenges face our country and this Congress ... too large to be solved by Democrats alone. They are too large to be undertaken by Republicans alone.”

Compromise is the main challenge of the next seven weeks, which is all the time Democrats and Republicans have left to find consensus across deep philosophical differences on fiscal policy, if they hope to spare the country from steep tax hikes and draconian budget cuts set to go into effect by the end of the year.

But lawmakers seemed in no hurry to get that under way on Tuesday. Instead, the afternoon was devoted to partisan speeches and celebrations.

In the Senate, Reid and his counterpart, Mitch McConnell, started things out by restating the source of their disagreements.

“I urge any of my Republican colleagues who are considering the same strategy of obstruction to turn away from the divisions of the past and join in cooperation, compromise and consensus,” Reid said. “In fact, we could avert the fiscal cliff for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses today. The House must only consider the Senate-passed bill freezing tax rates for those making less than $250,000 a year.”

“The best way forward that will lead to jobs and growth, a smaller deficit and fewer political fights is to keep everybody’s tax rates right where they are for now,” McConnell said. “Republicans are offering bipartisan solutions. Now it’s the president’s turn.”

In the House, as Republican leaders gaveled in the session, Democrats held court in front of the cameras to show off their new contingent of players.

“Before you, you see a broad coalition of Americans that stand ready to work with President Obama,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who may or may not lead her caucus next year; she deferred all such questions until Wednesday morning.

Flanked by new members, Pelosi sang the praises of “the first caucus in the history of civilized government to have a majority of women and minorities in the caucus.”

“You can applaud that,” she said.

Nevada’s two new delegation members both are Democrats — one is a minority and the other is a woman. Steven Horsford, who was elected to represent Nevada’s new 4th Congressional District, is the state’s first black congressman. Dina Titus was elected to the 1st Congressional District.

It’s Titus’ second go-round as a new member. She previously served a single term in the 3rd Congressional District.

“I’m here to learn and make sure that we get up to speed really quickly,” said Horsford, who was still grinning when he thought back to his win on election night.

“We went from calling people to get out the vote to waiting for the results to get in, and the next day we got an email saying ‘Orientation starts on Tuesday,’” he said. “It’s been very positive but also fast-paced at the same time.”

Orientation for new members goes through Saturday. They return at the end of November for a second round of training before being officially sworn in at the start of the New Year.

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