The recent cliffhanger rescue by the new 113th Congress was nothing compared to the mountain ahead as the Democratic Senate and the Republican House tackle sequestration, gun control and international security.
In a temporary fiscal cliff dodge, the House of Representatives voted Jan. 23, to raise the debt ceiling, or the maximum amount of money the federal government can borrow, in order to avoid a default on its debt and a resulting government shutdown.
The measure represents a last ditch effort to avoid the fiscal cliff after tax cut and deficit spending negotiations broke down between Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Barack Obama.
The raised ceiling will carry the government into March when new legislation will have to be passed
To avoid sequestration, or deep, automatic cuts in government spending, and a government shutdown.
Another round of failed negotiations, in conjunction with the expiration of the Fiscal Cliff Bush-era tax cuts, threatens to plunge the slowly recovering economy back into recession.
The writing is on the ceiling for congressmen, as the bill was passed with a ‘no budget, no pay’ segment.
If America goes over the cliff in three months, members of Congress will not receive pay until a plan is in place. The vote passed with a green light from the White House.
Heated fiscal cliff negotiations will undoubtedly carry over into other major policy changes facing the new Congress right in time for the new year, including a new assault weapons ban drafted in the Senate.
The bill is considered a long shot for making it through the Republican-controlled House.
The House was not the only place heating up as the Senate conducted hearings over the assassination of Libyan Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The inquiries are to address the requests for increased security at the embassy denied by State Department officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton has accepted full responsibility for the attack and is in the process of resigning her post. Senate Republicans present for the hearing, including Sen. John McCain, geared the majority of their questions at the administration’s initial public statement by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice.
In the statement, Rice said the attack was a result of a random riot mob, an assessment later proven to be false. An emotional Clinton fought back accusations that the State Department intentionally misled the public about the targeted assassination.
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton said. “Was it because there was a protest or was it because there were guys who went out for a walk one night who decided they would kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Massachusetts Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has been hand-picked by the President to replace Clinton.
Senator of 28 years and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry’s highly-qualified nomination is expected to sail through the Senate’s two-thirds approval vote in the coming weeks.
In other new presidential appointments, former Sen. Chuck Hagel ® is set to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. Obama has yet to elect a new replacement to head the C.I.A. in the wake of the Gen. David Patraeus scandal.
With Obama’s recess appointments from last year ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, future appointments by the president are expected to be met with Republican hostility.
And so the 2013 Congressional mountain climb begins.