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Washington Week

November 5, 2010 - 7:00pm

Now that most of the dust has settled from Tuesday's midterm elections, Congress is starting to deal with issues that face Congress' two-legged, lame-duck session. The Reid/Pelosi-led Congress has scheduled the first leg of the lame-duck session to convene Nov. 15; the second leg will convene Nov. 29. The lame-duck session has so much legislation to consider, its hard to know where to begin.

A few dates to watch in Congress: On the morning of Nov. 16, the Senate Democrats and Republicans will elect their leadership for the 112th Congress. No real changes are expected.

Sen. Reid (D-Nev.) will retain his seat as the Senate majority leader and will lead the new Senate with 53 Democratic members. Sen. McConnell (R-Ky.) will retain his role as the Senate minority leader with 47 GOP Senate members.

The week of Nov. 15 also includes orientation for the 13 (+/-) new United States senators. The House Republicans will elect their leadership on Nov. 17 with Democrats electing on Nov. 18.

We'll know by weeks end who will be leading the Congress next year. Speaker Pelosi has announced she will seek the top post for the House Democrats again, only this time the top post will be the minority leader. She has a few announced opponents in Cong. Shuler (D-N.C.), Cong. Boren (D-Okla.), Cong. Larson (D-Conn.), Cong. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

In Speaker Pelosis letter announcing her intention to seek the top post, she touts the accomplishments of the Reid/Pelosi Congress. She lists health care reform, Wall Street reform and restoring fiscal discipline to Congress by making pay as you go rules. However, what her letter neglects to mention is because the pay as you go rules allow the exclusion of so many big-ticket items, the Reid/Pelosi Congress was able to rack up about $3 trillion in deficit spending.

While the leadership elections will mostly be votes of acclamation, the Pelosi announcement might pose a serious divide within the Democratic Party. This divide could also spill into the work done during the lame-duck session of Congress. The leadership elections will take place during the same week that negotiations on major tax provisions, unemployment benefits and funding the government must be solved.

Also during the same day as the House Democratic leadership elections, the president has called a White House meeting, which has been dubbed the slurpee summit. This is a White House meeting calling for the attendance of the top four leadership posts in the House and Senate.

The president has extended the invitation to Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), John Boehner (R-Ohio), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). This meeting could be a bit uncomfortable -- especially if the House Democratic leadership elections are as contentious as they look to be on paper.

Stay tuned for next weeks piece, which will outline the laundry list of legislative items the Congress must tackle during the upcoming lame-duck session. Also see how the House leadership elections are playing out and if they are affecting the behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of www

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