WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The new Republican-run Congress will waste no time to reshape key Obama administration policies that include immigration, health care and the environment as it convenes Tuesday. Republicans will, at the same time, work to shake off their image as a divided, stalled party.
Republicans know they must move quickly to restore public approval, which hovers near historic lows, and demonstrate a collaborative effort. They plan to open with talks about the Keystone XL pipeline and changes to the health care law.
"On the things where we agree, the goal will be to make a law, not just put something on (Obama's) desk," incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Washington Post, adding later: "I want to make it clear: Desire for a signature is not going to dictate everything that we do."
The new Republican majority in the Senate and strong gains in the House will give the GOP the oomph it's been seeking.
After the official pageantry that will see 13 new senators and 58 new House members sworn in, McConnell plans to move quickly to pass legislation authorizing the Keystone pipeline, which is expected to bring as many as 800,000 barrels of oil through Canada into the United States. Environmental groups have decried the move as unsafe because it will markedly increase carbon pollution. It is expected to be the first bill to reach the floor, as soon as the week of Jan. 12.
At the same time, the House will tackle the health care law, including changes to the definition of full-time workers to 40 hours a week instead of the current 30 hours. House lawmakers are also expected to vote on the Hire More Heroes Act, which will exempt veterans already receiving VA health coverage from the Obamacare employer mandate.
By the second week of January, lawmakers will be devoted to a new Department of Homeland Security spending bill, including unraveling Obama's executive action that temporarily protects millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The opening weeks are also expected to see debate about Obama's decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba and confirmations of a new attorney general and secretary of defense. House Republicans must also deal with the image problems that came along with Representative Michael Grimm of New York, who resigned after pleading guilty to tax fraud, and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who acknowledged being a guest speaker at a 2002 white supremacist convention.