Eight straight years of Democrat dominance in D.C. comes to an end

by Will Hall, |
CSPAN/Screen Capture

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – The 114th Congress was sworn in today, ending eight years of Democrats' political dominance in Washington, D.C.

In 2006, Democrats controlled both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and in 2008 they gained control of the White House with the election of President Obama, leaving no obstacles to passing their legislative agenda. Republicans regained a majority in the House in 2010, dividing the legislature. But Democrats maintained power in the Oval Office and the Senate, largely rolling over Republicans through Senate action or presidential orders, until today.

With the swearing in of the new Congress, Republicans have majorities in both chambers, including their largest margin over Democrats in the House since 1949.

But having numerical control does not necessarily mean Republicans will drive the agenda. Any legislation passed by Congress will need President Obama's signature or must have two-thirds support in each chamber to override his veto, and those numbers are not there for the Republicans.

In the House, power is shared 56 percent (246 Republicans) to 44 percent (188) with one seat vacated by Republican Michael Grimm of New York. The Senate is similarly balanced with 54 Republicans to 44 Democrats, who will have 2 Independents caucusing with them.

Moreover, there are a number of issues already looming on the calendar that will consume a lot of energy and political capital. Politico.com lists some of these as funding for the Deparment of Homeland Security (February), fixing Medicare's funding fomulas for provider reimbursement (March), revamping the highway trust fund (May), and addressing the debt ceiling, which will become a red hot issue in the fall.

In the midst of these discussions, Republicans likely will bring up issues that connected with voters in winning so heavily in the 2014 elections: the Keystone Pipeline, the president's executive amnesty order and immigration, and the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). But President Obama's veto power will likely have at least some tempering effect on whatever Republicans propose.

Internal party politics also will figure in the mix.

In November, Senate Republicans unanimously elected Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to majority leader.

But today, House Republicans showed some dissent with John Boehner's leadership with almost two dozen naming other candidates during the roll call vote to elect a House speaker.