Posted: 10:49 pm Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
By Jamie Dupree
The start of a lame duck session of Congress produced no shortage of partisan fireworks on Wednesday, as the battle over a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana spilled onto the floors of the House and Senate, and both parties angled for advantage in what could be an especially political fight over Presidential actions on immigration reform.
“If there’s no other reason, Mr. President – go big, go bold,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) at a rally in favor of action by the White House on immigration.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) does a TV interview after a U.S. Capitol rally on immigration reform.
“There’s an urgency to this,” added Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA), who echoed the advice of Grijalva to the White House.
“You said you were going to do it – go big! Go big!” Vargas said.
Back inside, Republicans in the House and Senate were making it clear that a move to legalize millions of people already in the United States illegally would be met with strong opposition.
“A Republican Congress will defend itself and our citizens from these lawless actions,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has vowed to press for budgetary restrictions on the Obama Administration to block executive actions on immigration reform.
As for when the President might issue executive actions on immigration, a report from Fox News said it could be as early as next week; the White House made clear later that no final plans have been decided on by Mr. Obama.
Laissez les bon temps roulez
Just hours before the House and Senate convened on Wednesday, news organizations called the Senate race in Alaska for Republican Dan Sullivan, giving the GOP an eighth seat in the Senate next year, leaving only a runoff in Louisiana to be contested.
And soon after the Congress returned to session, that Louisiana Senate race basically grabbed the Legislative Stick Shift from leaders of both parties, and threw both the House and Senate into a post-election fight over the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“The American people want us to act, and act together in their interests,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who was able to force Senate leaders into holding a vote next week on a bill that immediately approves construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Republicans though weren’t about to let Landrieu steal the spotlight with her power play on the Keystone pipeline, as they swiftly set action this week on a similar bill – championed by Landrieu’s Senate runoff opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
“The House has passed legislation to expedite the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline eight times,” said Cassidy. “I hope the Senate and the President do the right thing.”
The Freshmen arrive
While both parties wasted no time in slugging it out over immigration, Keystone and more, newly-elected lawmakers in both parties arrived on Capitol Hill, eager to learn the ropes and get ready for their new jobs.
“That was my first ever visit to the Senate floor,” said Senator-elect David Perdue of Georgia, who was more than pleased to be a part of a new GOP majority that will take office in the Senate in early January.
Senator-elect David Perdue (R-GA) speaks with reporters outside the U.S. Capitol.
“We’re getting ready to come up here in January and make a difference,” Perdue said.
“This is kind of like the parent-teacher meeting at the beginning of school,” said Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), who is moving across to the Capitol to the Senate.
In an interview, Lankford said the GOP needs to be ready in early 2015, to capitalize on the momentum from last week’s election victories.
A few blocks away, freshmen House members were going through the same rituals, trying to figure out what doors to use and how best to put together their office for the 114th Congress – and enjoying every minute of it.
“There’s just a great spirit from people who believe now is the time to get involved in taking our country back,” said Representative-elect Jody Hice (R-GA).