The 115th Congress was gaveled into session earlier on Tuesday with House Republicans re-electing Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as Speaker and Senate Republicans introducing legislation that's a precursor to repealing much of the Affordable Care Act.
Successful passage of the measure would allow a detailed follow-up repeal bill to pass through Congress without fear of a filibuster by Senate Democrats. Tuesday's measure doesn't contain any policy language.
Repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care law is the top priority of President-elect Donald Trump and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill.
The measure directs top congressional committees to cast votes to assemble the repeal legislation by Jan. 27. That means there's no time for trying to add legislation to replace so-called Obamacare.
The measure is officially called a budget resolution. Senate debate begins this week and the House is likely to follow next week.
Meanwhile, the House convened at noon Tuesday, with 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats, including 52 freshmen. Ryan was re-elected Speaker of the House, receiving the majority of his colleagues' votes (239).
Ryan said his message to the American people is that "we hear you, we will do right by you and we will deliver."
Ryan said Americans have been looking to Washington for leadership but all they've gotten is condescension.
Ryan said it's time not to be timid. He said: "You can feel the winds of change."
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats will seek common ground with Republicans when they can on issues such as investing in the nation's infrastructure and making sure taxes and foreign trade are fair to worker. She said Democrats will stand their ground on attempts to harm Medicare, Social Security or the Affordable Care Act.
He pledged to American voters, “We hear you, we will do right by you and we will deliver.”
In the Senate, seven new members of the Senate joined those who won re-election in receiving the oath of office from Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is the president of the Senate until Trump becomes president Jan. 20. Then Mike Pence will take over.
Each senator was joined at the dais by current and former senators. They then took their new desks and chatted with fellow lawmakers.
There are two new Republican senators and five Democrats. The Republicans are Indiana Sen. Todd Young and Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy. The Democrats are Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth, a double-amputee Iraq war vet, walked to the dais and stood for the oath.
Members of the 115th Congress are setting off an aggressive campaign by Republicans who control the House and Senate to dismantle eight years of President Barack Obama's Democratic policies.
The first and biggest target is Obama's signature health care law, which Republicans have long sought to gut and blamed as a primary cause for a lackluster economic recovery. President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday encouraged a wholesale overhaul of the system, tweeting hours before the new Congress convenes "Obamacare just doesn't work," is unaffordable "and, it is lousy health care."
Majority Republicans also are targeting decades-old programs that millions of Americans rely on every day, such as Social Security and Medicare as they seek to shrink both the size of the federal budget and the bureaucracy in Washington.
"We have a lot to do — and a lot to undo," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a letter to fellow Republicans.
There were signs of Republican-on-Republican drama even before the new Congress officially opened on Tuesday. House Republicans on Monday night voted to defy their leaders and gut the chamber's independent ethics panel created in 2008 to probe charges of lawmaker misconduct after several corruption scandals sent members to prison. But on Tuesday, they reversed the course under pressure from Trump.
In two tweets on Tuesday, Trump reacted to the closed-door vote. Trump's first tweet said, "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."
He followed up with a second that said. "Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS"
"DTS" stands for "drain the swamp."
Democrats will try to block the far-reaching conservative agenda by swaying public opinion and using the power they have in the Senate to filibuster legislation. But that strategy has its political limitations. Twenty-three Senate Democrats are up for re-election in 2018, including 10 from states won by President-elect Donald Trump, and they could break ranks and side with the GOP.
"What we will always do is hold the president-elect and his Republican colleagues in Congress accountable," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in prepared remarks Tuesday. "We will be a caucus that works to make sure the president-elect keeps his commitment to truly make America great, in its finest sense and tradition."
Obama plans a rare trip to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with congressional Democrats and discuss strategy for saving the health care law. Vice President-elect Mike Pence will meet with Republicans.
The first week of the new Congress will be a preview of the hectic pace planned by Republicans.
Votes also are expected on resolutions to denounce the United Nations for condemning the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Republicans blasted the Obama administration for refusing to veto the decision. Ryan pledged "to reverse the damage done by this administration, and rebuild our alliance with Israel."
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee on an intelligence community assessment that Russia interfered in the U.S. election by hacking into Democratic email accounts. Allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. political process will be examined by individual congressional committees, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected a bipartisan call for a special, high-profile select panel to investigate.
Obama last week slapped Russia with sweeping penalties over the hacking allegations, yet Trump has not publicly accepted the conclusion Moscow was behind the election year intrusions. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" that "there doesn't seem to be conclusive evidence" that the Russians were responsible.
The House is slated to vote Friday to certify Trump's victory in the presidential election over Democrat Hillary Clinton. She is the fifth presidential candidate to win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College. She received nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, according to an Associated Press analysis, giving her the largest popular vote margin of any losing presidential candidate and bringing renewed calls to abolish the Electoral College.
Other must-do items on the GOP's agenda are an overhaul of the U.S. tax code. Conservatives also want to scuttle rules on the environment and undo financial regulations created in the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, arguing they are too onerous for businesses to thrive.
The Senate plans to begin repealing Obama's health care law on Tuesday, with consideration of a procedural measure that will shield the initiative from Democratic filibusters.
Lawmakers will then spend the next few months working on legislation canceling broad swaths of the law. Likely to go are its mandate that people buy health insurance or face IRS fines, and its expansion of Medicaid coverage to more lower-earning Americans. But several elements of the repeal likely wouldn't go into effect for two to four years.
Amid the busy legislative schedule, the Senate will exercise its advice and consent role and consider Trump's picks for his Cabinet.