POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CNN: Lame duck Congress convenes
The so-called “lame duck” session of the Democratic Congress convened Monday, with members preparing to make decisions on a host of contentious issues that could have major political ramifications for both President Barack Obama and the incoming Republican House majority. Newly elected House members, meanwhile, were given a daylong orientation on the rules and procedures governing life on Capitol Hill. They are set to take office in January. In the Senate, two new members – Delaware’s Chris Coons and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – were sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden. Coons and Manchin are both Democrats; their addition to the Senate did not change the chamber’s 59-41 Democratic edge for the lame duck session. Senate Democrats will have a smaller 53 to 47 majority next year.
CNN: Deliberations to resume in ethics trial after Rangel walks out
The House panel looking into ethics allegations against longtime Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York will resume its executive session deliberations Tuesday. On Monday, Rangel walked out of the House ethics subcommittee trial, complaining he has not had sufficient time to hire a new legal team to respond to corruption allegations. The subcommittee rejected Rangel’s request to delay the hearing until a new defense team is assembled.

CNN: In turnaround, McConnell backs ban on earmarks
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the chief, old-bull defenders of earmarks, bowed to growing pressure from the public and his fellow GOP senators, and announced Monday he would support a ban on earmarks by Republican lawmakers in the new Congress. “I have come down to this spot and said the Democrats are ignoring the wishes of the American people,” McConnell said in a surprise announcement on the Senate floor. “When it comes to earmarks, I won’t be guilty of the same thing.”

CNN: Congressional Black Caucus Witholds Support For Pelosi
The Congressional Black Caucus has decided to withhold its approval for the House Democratic leadership team, denying Speaker Nancy Pelosi full support of the 42-member organization as she campaigns to remain leader. After a nearly two hour long meeting on Monday night, chairwoman Barbara Lee of California said the group only will endorse caucus member James Clyburn of South Carolina for a leadership position. The causus first wants to know what his role will be in the Democratic leadership before backing the full slate.

Roll Call: Reid Shakes Up His Staff
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to replace his chief of staff in what appears to be a continuation of the Nevada Democrat’s attempts to show rank-and-file Democrats that he is committed to changing the way he runs the chamber in the 112th Congress. Sources confirmed that Chief of Staff Gary Myrick will likely step aside for Deputy Chief of Staff David Krone. Myrick, however, will continue to play a leadership role for Reid, given that he is expected to take over the operations of the Democratic Cloakroom as the new Democratic Secretary.

CNN: Cornyn to make bid to remain head of NRSC
Sen. John Cornyn is expected Tuesday to formally make a bid for another two years as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. GOP sources confirm to CNN that the Texas Republican will put his name up for nomination for re-election as NRSC chairman, as the Senate Republican Conference meets behind closed doors. According to the sources, the two-term senator is not expected to face any opposition in his bid to remain as NRSC chairman, and has already secured the support of a number of new Republican Senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
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