By Veronica Mackey
The new Congress convened on Tuesday with a bold Republican agenda. With both the House and Senate controlled by the GOP, and the election of Republican President-elect Donald Trump, many policies enacted under the Obama Administration are expected to be reversed.
Seven new senators and 52 new House members were sworn in. With four of the new senators being women, the Senate will now have a record number of women serving — 21. Newly elected Democrat and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris became the first black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, replacing Sen. Barbara Boxer, who retired.
The top priority, GOP leaders say, is to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, which now provides healthcare to 20 million Americans—many of whom are Trump supporters. Other agenda items include rolling back regulations on the environment and financial institutions. Planned Parenthood is expected to be on the chopping block again, even though abortion, an issue conservatives oppose, is not funded with tax payer dollars.
Republicans will begin efforts to repeal Obamacare as early as this week, but they are in for a fight. The most daunting challenge is the cost of what it will take to defeat Obamacare. Experts estimate a price tag of $137 billion over 10 years. President Obama will meet with Democrats this week to map out strategies to keep parts of the legislation in place. It is not yet clear how Republicans plan to replace the health care legislation and keep it affordable.
While Democrats are outnumbered in the nation’s capital, they are the majority in California. The left-leaning state is ruled by Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate, and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. Less than an hour after Harris resigned and took the oath of office for the U.S. Senate, Gov. Brown officially nominated Rep. Xavier Becerra to fill the post.
The California Assembly set a Jan.10 date for his first confirmation hearing. The Assembly and Senate now have 90 days to act on confirmation of Becerra, a Democrat from Los Angeles, as state attorney general.
California leaders are taking steps to keep certain laws and policies in place now that Republicans will control both the nation’s executive and legislative branches of government. The state has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, an Obama ally, as legal counsel to help keep Obamacare, immigration and civil rights laws intact. Last week, the County and City of Los Angeles partnered with nonprofits to start a $10 million fund for legal assistance to undocumented immigrants.
Harris told the Sacramento Bee post-election that she will “fight” Trump on immigration, health care, the environment and crime. While she disagreed with his intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act, she is encouraged that “at the very least he recognizes that pre-existing conditions and the component about kids up to the age of 26 (the two most popular parts of the law), that they’ll be covered . . . But the population is obviously bigger than that so there’s going to be a need to fight.”
The newly elected senator told 60 Minutes she is “suspicious” of Trump’s approach to deporting immigrants with criminal records. A criminal charged with a DUI, she said, is very different from one charged with rape. Harris, the first woman elected as San Francisco’s district attorney and the first woman to be elected as California’s attorney general, is the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants.