U.S. Congress begins lame-duck session

08:32, November 16, 2010      

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The U.S. Congress on Monday started its lame-duck session after the Republican Party's sweeping win in the mid-term elections two weeks ago, and the Congress is likely to consider whether to extend former president George W. Bush's tax cuts and approve an arms reduction treaty with Russia.

The most eye-catching event on Monday on the Capitol Hill, however, is the start of an ethics trial for Charles Rangel, chairman of the House of Representatives' powerful tax-writing committee.

The trial is held by a House ethics panel, which will judge whether Rangel, a New York Democrat, broke House rules in filing an amended tax return and belatedly paying his taxes, as well as other financial and fundraising practices.

Denied of a plea for a delay, the chairman of Ways and Means Committee walked out of his trial, a major embarrassment for Democrats, whose House leader Nancy Pelosi claimed she would clean up the chamber when elected Speaker four years ago.

The lame-duck session is to last until the new Congress, with around 100 new members, most of them Republicans, are sworn in next January. The Democrats still have a slim majority in the Senate.

The first item on Congress' table plate will be the Bush tax cuts. Republicans want to extend the cuts across the board, whereas Democrats want to exclude the wealthiest Americans from it. The White House has signaled a willingness to extend the high-income tax cuts temporarily, while making the rest permanent.

Also on the agenda is the Senate ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he felt "reasonably good about our prospects" of getting it through the lame-duck session.

Some of the newly-elected Congress members were to be sworn in on Monday. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled later in the afternoon to swear in Senators-elect Chris Coons of Delaware and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both Democrats. Coons is to take over Biden's old seat and Manchin will take the seat left by the late Robert Byrd.

Source: Xinhua


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