Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Congress: Musical Chairs, Phones

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Congress: Musical Chairs, Phones

Article excerpt

The new Republican majority may be planning to hit the ground running when the new Congress convenes at noon today, but if members are not careful, they could spend most of the first week crashing into one another.

Ordinarily, Congress opens with a cheerful swearing-in ceremony, complete with children and spouses, then recesses for at least two weeks so new senators and House members can settle in and figure out what's going on.

But the GOP, its "Contract with America" flying at full staff, intends to charge into battle with legislation and hearings from Day One. This would be messy under any circumstances, but with the House going Republican for the first time in 40 years, and the Senate switching majorities for the third time since 1980, the place is in a logistical uproar.

By the end of last week, some House committees still didn't know who their members were, and it was impossible to find out how committee budgets would be apportioned between majority and minority.

Republicans were staffing up, and Democrats were staffing down, causing one Democratic leadership source to remark sourly that the GOP's promise to cut 30 percent of House staff "is easy to make when our side's doing the cutting."

Still, without budgets, few committees knew how many people they eventually would be able to afford, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Democrats were still walking the halls waiting to see if the ax would fall on their jobs. …

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