New year, new party in charge of the U.S. House. Battles over spending and GOP efforts to repeal health care reform will begin in earnest Wednesday as the 112th session of Congress begins with Democrats yielding control of the House to Republicans. Here's a look at this and some of the other stories we plan to follow this week:
Spending, filibusters could be addressed this week
With temporary funding for the U.S. government not expiring until March and with President Obama's nextÂ budget proposal not expected to be submitted to Congress until mid-February, congressionalÂ squabbles over spending could take weeks. But the House already is expected to start debate Thursday on cutting funding for legislative activities by 5%, which incomingÂ Â House Speaker John Boehner says could save $25 million to $30 millionÂ a year.
The Senate, meanwhile, could start considering changes this week to its rules on filibusters, thoseÂ maneuvers that the minority party often uses to delay or kill legislation. Democrats are returning to the chamber with a diminished majority and want to weaken the filibuster and other moves that senators can use to block bills. One option is to eliminate a rule that requires 60 votes to bring a bill to a final vote. Another is to prevent the ability of a single, anonymous senator to prevent a bill from coming to the floor. Yet another is to force senators who want to filibuster to speak at length.
Steele fights for his future at the RNC
While RepublicansÂ prepare to take the House, Republican National Committee chief Michael Steele is fighting to keep his job. On Monday, the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans for Tax Reform will stage a debate between Steele and five candidates who are challenging him. Steele is up for re-election later this month.
Will Ivory Coast's presidential standoff lead to military conflict?
Leaders of three West African countries are expected to meet with Ivory Coast's self-declared President Laurent Gbagbo on Monday to ask him to relinquish his post or face a military ouster. Gbagbo has claimed he won a November 28 election, but a growing international bloc - including the United States and the United Nations - has recognized his challenger, Alassane Ouattara, as the winner. Each has ignored the other's deadline to stand down. Ouattara, holed up in a hotel in the capital since the election, has formed a government and made new diplomatic assignments.
Sudan braces for vote that could split it in two
On the other sideÂ of Africa, Southern Sudan is preparing for a January 9 referendum that could seeÂ the regionÂ split from Northern Sudan. The referendum is part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of violence between the North and oil-rich South - aÂ conflict that led to the deaths of 2 million people, many from starvation. The impending vote has sparked fears of renewed violence, but Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has said he will accept the results.
Evacuations continue following massive flooding in Australia
About 1,000 people are expected to be evacuated from their homes in the coming days in Queensland, Australia, because of flooding that has covered an area larger than France and Germany combined, Queensland officials say. An emergency management spokesman in Queensland said floodwater is receding in certain areas but is also floodingÂ some towns as it recedes.Â At least one personÂ has died as a result of the flooding, electricity has been intentionally cut in severely flooded areas and a regional airport is expected to be closed for weeks.
What caused thousands of blackbirds to die in Arkansas?
Arkansas game officials hope testing scheduled to begin Monday will solve the mystery of why up to 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve. The birds, most of which were dead, were found within a one-mile area of Beebe, about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said. An ornithologist for the commission said such an incident could be caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail, and another commission member said biologists believe the deaths were stress-related from either fireworks or weather. Meanwhile, Arkansas officials also are investigating the deaths of an estimated 100,000 fish about 125 miles to the west.
Freedom for Lindsay Lohan; Â Queen Latifah hosting "People's Choice Awards"
After several months of court-ordered rehab, actressÂ Lindsay Lohan reportedly is set to check out of the Betty Ford clinic on Tuesday. Fans and critics alike are anxious to learn what the embattled starlet's next career move will be now that she is no longer attached to the Linda Lovelace biopic, "Inferno."
On Wednesday, the public will deliver its verdicts on movies, music and television during the 2011 "People's Choice Awards," hosted by Queen Latifah. More than 35 million votes were cast for the awards ceremony, which aims to reveal the public's favorites in numerous entertainment categories.Â The show will air live on CBS starting at 9 p.m. EST from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.
The "Super Bowl of tech" kicks off
The year's biggest technology trade show kicks off Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada, with tech titans including Microsoft, Samsung and Sony set to unveil their latest gadgets. Sometimes called the "Super Bowl of tech," the Consumer Electronics Show is expected to attract more than 100,000 industry players. Tablet computers, smartphones and 3D televisions are expected to be among the big items this year, and our Tech section will be watching.
I'll bring the lube too! LOL!
don't sweat it, I got a ton.
CES 2011, baby!
5000 dead birds fall from the sky in arkansas and not one redneck fatality? It appears that Kim Jong has failed, again, to weaken the west with such groundbreaking technology
I dont feel like i should be forced to have health insurance, I think everyone would like to have health insurance if they could afford it. If you need affordable health insurance search online "Wise Health Insurance" you dont want to be with out insurance any time.
Knew a poor guy in HS whose parents named him Jack. The problem? Last name was Knauf. Relevant, not even close. I do like the redwing blackbirds, but, then again, I don't own a farm. In my area, they're protected. In farmlands, especially sunflower fields, they're considered a major pest. I wish it had been a flock of those European Starlings, or house sparrows. They're illegal aliens of the worst kind. Cons, do something!
Hey, Marklang, *real* health insurance, especially for families w/o employer-provided/subsidized policies is extremely expensive, especially if any of the family members have any preexisting diseases. Anthing from asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure to cancer is going to either cost a fortune, or the illnesses won't be covered. People shouldn't die because they're poor, especially children. I have 2 kids with asthma and peanut allergies, and a wife with MS. We go to the ER so often they know our names (and we don't live in a rural area). We'd either be dead or broke if we didn't have employer subsidized coverage. Even with that, we pay $800/mo for family PPO, and we pay at least $500/mo just in out-of-pocket co-payments on medications. Each name brand is $20/mo. Generics are $10/mo (or less for a few). Co-pays for doc visits are $20. If we paid full price for any of that, we couldn't survive, and we're middle-middle class. That's the reality. Imagine those who don't have insurance and who have these kinds of problems or worse. I don't go along with "survival of the fittest" when it comes to my fellow Americans. We have the resources. No excuse for this members-only get to live club.
I fully agree! I have walked around for a year and a half uninsured because my husbands employer doesnt offer it, we can't afford it from mine, we damn sure can't afford private coverage, and because we actually get off our asses and work every day we arent eligible for government help.... now they want to punish me because I am trying to be productive instead of sitting on my ass spitting out kids and living on food stamps and Medicaid!
Promote your band or music at demodogg.com
That is too funny @ Steele
I truly love the free schooling concept because people that have financial problems could have a chance to send their kids to school