U.S. Congress

GM's Champion Stalls

Following the election victory of Barack Obama, veteran Democratic Congressman John Dingell has been ousted as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by Henry Waxman.

Leadership Changes in the 111th Congress

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

With Democrats expanding their majorities in the House and Senate during the 2008 congressional elections, members of both parties sought to redefine the leadership structure within their respective caucuses. Some of the shuffling was predictable, while political calculation entered into consideration into other leadership campaigns. In addition, freshman members of the House and Senate were forced to take sides in their first actions in Congress, even though they have not yet taken office.

Much of the publicity centered around the future of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the Democratic caucus, and over Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) bid to replace Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) as chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Republicans had their own drama, however, with a challenge to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and a shift in the Senate leadership.

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (November 14-21, 2008)

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Congress is finally returning to work this week, after members took time off to focus on their re-election campaigns (some unsuccessful — see the lame duck list). Incoming freshman will be playing a role as well, when the respective parties in each chamber caucus and vote for leadership positions. There will, however, be legislative action, at least in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are pushing for an extension of unemployment benefits and a possible $25 billion bailout for domestic automakers. While the House is waiting until the Senate makes a decision on the two bills, some of its members will be grilling Treasury officials over the $700 billion financial industry bailout.

Stimulus and automaker bailout
With wider majorities for the Democrats coming in the 111th Congress (profile), Republicans there and in the White House are trying to fight off whatever legislation they can during this final “lameduck” session of the 110th. Many Democrats have already balked at attempting another massive stimulus package this session and measures to extend unemployment benefits have failed several votes this year. Democratic leaders have decided this time to try for the benefits extension again and carve a $25 billion aid package for the American auto industry out of the previous $700 billion package.

The first hurdle for the auto-industry bailout will be overcoming a potential Republican filibuster in the Senate on Wednesday. Democrats, who currently hold a slim majority, will need to find some Republicans willing to play ball, especially since President-Elect Barack Obama resigned his Senate seat on Sunday, giving them one less vote.

Several prominent Republicans have already voiced opposition to the automaker bailout, including Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who said the failing businesses should not be propped up. Sen Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not yet weighed in on the plan, but did criticize Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for not disclosing the costs of the plan early enough for members to consider it thoroughly.

GM Employees Asked to Drive Bailout Lobbying

"General Motors, teetering on the brink of insolvency, has taken the extraordinary step of calling on employees and dealers to personally urge lawmakers to approve another loan package that might keep the beleaguered automaker from going under," reports Wired.com. GM North America president Troy Clarke emailed 29,000 employees, "Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical. ...

Wiki the Vote - Undecided House and Senate Races

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

More than a week has passed since Election Day, but there are still five House and three Senate races in play, and the balance of power in Washington hinges on their outcomes. The closest races are currently in Alaska and Minnesota, where two sitting senators are defending their seats against strong challenges. Notably, two of the incumbents in undecided races are under federal investigation (Don Young and William Jefferson) and one (Ted Stevens) is awaiting sentencing on felony corruption charges.

Outstanding Senate races:

In Alaska, Sen. Ted Stevens is trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by less than 1,000 votes, a reversal of fortune since Stevens' early lead before the state began counting about 74,000 absentee and questionable ballots. Only half the ballots have been counted, however, so it's still anyone's race.

That Stevens is even still in the race is a testament to his standing in the Last Frontier. He’s the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and has represented Alaska in Congress since 1968. He’s also a convicted (though not yet sentenced) felon – a federal jury handed down a guilty verdict on seven counts of lying on personal finance disclosure forms just days before the election.

Should Stevens pull out the victory, he could plausibly serve for several more years as his appeal winds through the courts. The Senate could expel him from the body with a 2/3 majority vote, which is not unlikely considering that several of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle have publicly called for his resignation, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It would then fall to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to appoint a temporary replacement until a special election, mandated by state law to occur within 90 days, could be held to fill the remainder of the term.

Lobbyists, Register with the President

"President-elect Obama is already backing off his pledge not to hire any lobbyists to serve in his administration," reports Shawn Zeller.

Industry Tries to Sell Congress on Drugs

A $13.2 million ad campaign thanks 28 members of Congress, 25 of whom are Democrats, "for supporting a children's health-care bill vetoed twice by President George W. Bush in 2007." The ads are by America's Agenda: Health Care for Kids, a new non-profit group whose sole funder is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Ted Stevens Convicted on All Counts in Corruption Trial

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has been convicted by a federal jury on seven counts of "knowingly and willfully" making false statements on his Senate personal financial disclosure forms.

One of Stevens' campaign contributors, the owner of an oil services company, performed free renovations on Stevens' Girdwood, Alaska home, and performed other favors. All told, Stevens failed to disclose more than $250,000 in goods and services.

Participatory Project: Record your Representative's Vote on the Bailout

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

The weeks leading up to the passage of the bailout bill were filled with controversy, as America and its leaders attempted to accept the magnitude of the economic crisis.

Meet the Candidates: Winners of the Congressional Primaries in Louisiana

(For a full list of candidates, see the Louisiana portal.)

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Louisiana finally held their primaries on Saturday, which had been delayed from their original September 6th date by Hurricane Gustav. Under Louisiana's system, only congressional candidates who win 50.1% in the primary move on to the general election. In the 2nd and 4th congressional districts, no one reached that threshold and a run-off primary will be held for their candidates on Election Day, November 4th, with the general election following on December 6th.

The 2nd district is home to Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who only won 25% of the vote on Saturday and will now face TV anchorwoman Helena Moreno in the Democratic runoff on November 4. The winner will be up against Republican nominee Anh Cao on December 6th. That may be inconvenient for Jefferson, however, because he is scheduled to head to trial on federal corruption charges on December 2nd (full details here).

In the 4th congressional district, where Rep. Jim McCrery is retiring, two runoffs are required. Republicans John Fleming Jr. and Chris D. Gorman survived the primary, as did Democrats Willie Banks Jr. and Paul Carmouche. Both parties will have runoffs on November 4, with the winners squaring off in December.

In the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th districts, the parties' nominees gained a majority of the vote and citizens will choose their representative when they cast presidential ballots on November 4.

Also, one of the country’s most closely-watched Senate races is playing out in Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is fighting to retain her seat. However, recent trendlines show her pulling ahead with a double-digit lead over Republican nominee and state treasurer John Kennedy (R), once considered the GOP’s best chance for flipping a Senate seat this cycle.

As part of Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project, citizen journalists from around the country (and even some candidates!) have been logging information about the candidates' positions, biographies and records. A full list of the candidates and their professions are below, but you can also find them at their respective state portals via the Wiki the Vote project homepage. We need your help to find out more about these candidates, so if you know something about them please add it to their profile. (You can always contact one of the staff editors for help.)

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