The United States’ 115th Congress was sworn into office on Tuesday, January 3, ushering a GOP-controlled Legislative Branch.
Thirty-four senators and the entire House of Representatives was sworn in, including Speaker of the House Sen. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
Once President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20, the GOP will be in control of both the Executive and Legislative branches —the first time in a decade.
That being said, the future of several key initiatives from President Barack Obama look bleak, especially the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
The dismantling of Obamacare — which has been a fixture in the Republican agenda since Obama entered office in 2008 — is likely to happen after Republican lawmakers announced a bill that may repeal the law within the next month.
Democrats fear that repealing Obamacare will leave millions of Americans without health care. Although the future of Obamacare doesn’t look good, Democratic lawmakers are committed to fighting to sustain it.
“We have the responsibility and the power to lift the lives and the hopes of the American people. Yet every American should know: if there’s any attempt to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or ACA, we will stand our ground,” Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter.
But, as Republican lawmakers previously mentioned, conservative lawmakers are seeking to replace it through bills and proposals under the Committee on Ways and Means.
“We’re doing what we promised,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) said. “What we have seen so much with Obamacare is that what has happened is that what sounded good turned out to be a disaster.”
Republicans also plan to do away with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The law — which was a direct response to the 2008 financial crisis — brought significant regulations and reform to the financial system and sought to prevent another Great Recession.
Collins proposed a bill called the Reins Act, which would essentially make it easier for Congress to eliminate multiple regulations at once.
“We’re simply saying, you’re not going to be able to do these in the undercover agencies with people not having input and knowing what happens,” Collins said of his new bill.
Some of other Republican-based ideals this Congress has planned include cutting funding toward Medicaid, repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, privatizing Veteran’s care and cutting taxes.
Although minority representation remains low, the 115th Congress features the widest array of ethnic and gender representation than any Congress in U.S. history.
Asian American and Latino representations is at an all-time high with 15 Asian Americans and 38 Latinos serving in both houses.
Female representation is also at a record high with 21 women serving in the Senate. Moreover, there is a record four women of color serving in the Senate: Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (D-California).
Cortez Masto is the first Latina to ever be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Trump criticizes House Republicans on ethics office
In a shocking move that ruffled feathers, House Republicans voted behind closed doors on the night of Monday, January 2 to put Congress’ ethics office — which independent from both houses — under the control of the House of Representatives’ ethics committee.
However, the vote was dropped after President-elect Donald Trump criticized House Republicans for the move, which he considered a reverse to his call to “drain the swamp” — his promise to end corruption in Washington.
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it is may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning.
The move — which was only a part of the House’s rules set for approval on Tuesday by the new Congress — was intended to restrict the powers of the independent office.
However, the reversal may only be temporary as Republican leadership confirmed a bipartisan effort later in the year to negotiate with other Congress members on the issue.
The independent ethics office was established during the recession in 2008 after three Congress members were jailed for involvement in corrupt scandals. (Klarize Medenilla/AJ Press)