New US Congress, Including Hillary Clinton, Convenes Wednesday
Unless she is struck by a bolt of lightning, First Lady Hillary Clinton will be among the members of the newly-elected 107th US Congress which convenes Wednesday amid appeals for bipartisanship.
Clinton, who won a decisive victory in November to become the junior US senator from New York, is the first US first lady to be elected to Congress.
She will enjoy the double status of first lady and also Democratic congresswoman only until her husband, US President Bill Clinton, leaves office on January 20.
There is plenty of talk of bipartisanship in the upcoming session of Congress. But it was US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott who made a famous acid remark the day after Clinton was elected to the Senate in November.
"I tell you one thing, when this Hillary gets to the Senate -- if she does, maybe lightning will strike and she won't -- she will be one of 100, and we won't let her forget it," Lott said.
Clinton will be one of 50 Democrats in the evenly-divided US Senate.
The Mississippi Republican later adopted a more conciliatory tone, but it is anyway clear that Clinton will not begin her six-year US Senate term as just another freshman legislator.
Clinton -- considered a rising star by her Democratic colleagues -- is one of 11 newly-elected senators to be sworn in at a ceremony Wednesday presided by outgoing Vice President Al Gore and attended by her husband, the president.
Last month, the first lady inked an eight million-dollar book deal with publishers Simon and Schuster, raising eyebrows among watchdog groups such as the nonpartisan Congressional Accountability Project, who questioned the propriety of the deal.
Under Senate ethics rules, senators are banned from earning outside income and honoraria except for "intellectual property rights," which include books.
The Democrats will be courted by incoming Republican President George W. Bush, who has promised to work in a harmonious and bipartisan way to further his campaign goals -- which include a massive tax cut opposed by many Democrats.
Bush has indicated education reform will be the first piece of legislation Bush he will submit to Congress after his inauguration on January 20. He however has also said that the 1.3 trillion-dollar tax cut over 10 years will be a top legislative priority.
"There's going to be a lot of discussions, a lot of head-knocking, a lot of kind of gentle arm-twisting," Bush said in his first visit to Congress, alluding to the evenly-divided Senate and the 10-seat majority the Republicans hold in the 435-seat US House of Representatives.
In the 17 days leading up to Bush's inauguration, the Democrats will control the Senate, with Gore casting the deciding vote if there is a 50-50 vote split.
"We want to set the example, to show what you can really do with bipartisanship," said Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle Tuesday on ABC television. "I hope we can set a tone that will carry us through for the entire Congress."
After January 20, tie-breaking votes in the Senate will be cast by Republican Vice President Richard Cheney, and the upper chamber will revert to Republican control.
But Democrats are trying to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement in committees that will closer reflect the 50-50 split as a result of the November 7 election.
One of the first Senate tasks is confirming appointees to the Bush administration.
The first hearing on the subject will be held Thursday at the Senate Commerce Committee, which will scrutinize the candidacy on Don Evans, slated to become commerce secretary -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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