The political year ahead: GOP-controlled Congress

By Joel Waldman, FOX News

It's time to say goodbye to the political stories of 2014 and hello to the ones that follow in 2015.

One lingering question - will the GOP-controlled Congress be able to govern, or at least function better than the last one? The midterm-election gave Republicans control of the Senate and increased their majority in the house. The President says he is willing to make deals.

With promises of compromise and plans to work together, Congress returns to Washington in the new year with a GOP majority in both houses.  And Senate Republicans are expected to waste no time in trying to put President Obama in a bind over the Keystone XL pipeline.

"We'll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support. First item up in the new Senate will be the Keystone XL pipeline," said Senator Mitch McConnell.

The expected incoming majority leader plans on pushing the administration to approve the project, which would send oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

The Keystone legislation could serve as a platform for a broader debate on energy policy and climate change, but even with momentum building on the Hill, the White House is signaling a veto.

"I'm being sincere that I want to work with Congress to get things done. We're going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we've got to be able to make that happen," said Obama.

While GOP leaders are not completely settled on their strategy for the next session of Congress, it is expected the fight with President Obama over immigration will be renewed.  There is outrage among many Republicans over the President's plan to shield up to five million from being deported.  They argue the President lacks the authority to enact such a large-scale action.

"The President does not get to demand of Congress 'here is the policy I want.  Either give me what I want or I will decree it to be so and ignore the law," said Senator Ted Cruz.

Republicans intent to use their control of Congressional committees to bring new scrutiny to the West Wing and some Federal agencies.  One area where GOP leaders and the White House might overlap: tax and trade.

"The American people are still asking the question where are the jobs? And we've got to keep focused on this issue," said Rep. John Boehner.

Even though both parties say they are open to increased cooperation with their counterparts across the aisle, some Democrats are still skeptical.  But the recent budget showdown in December could foreshadow a larger fight within the majority party as some conservatives, who see the Federal budget as a bargaining chip to deal with the White House, seem to be breaking away from the more moderate leadership.

"When people out there are riled up and angry at the president...be angry at the House Republicans that won't pass a bill," said Senator Chuck Schumer.

The Democrats will be in the minority in both chambers, with less leverage than they had in the past eight years. But because Republicans will hold only 54 of the senate's 100 seats, the GOP still will need at least six democrats to override a filibuster on any legislation.
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