Anyone walking by the Capitol steps this morning saw one of the first real images of the change that's coming to Washington. Some 50 fresh-faced, newly-elected lawmakers were all smiles as they posed for their class picture.
But, that belied what was happening inside the halls of Congress.
It’s business as usual: Gridlock.
The old Congress is back in town this week for a lame-duck session, and the auto industry is begging lawmakers to avoid financial collapse.
But, calls for emergency assistance to Detroit are colliding with a partisan divide over where the money should come from.
On the Senate floor, we heard big speeches from the leadership about the need to work together.
Still, we could find no evidence that either side is sitting down to talk about how to bridge their differences on helping the auto industry.
Democrats went ahead and introduced legislation to take 25 billion dollars out of the 700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout and give it to Detroit.
Republicans and the Bush White House oppose that, calling it a slippery slope to help one industry, albeit an important one, with money intended to prop up the nation’s banks.
Instead, most in the GOP want to use money from a previously approved fund for developing fuel-efficient vehicles, which most Democrats call non-negotiable.
The result? Stalemate.
Democratic sources say they will take a test, procedural vote on their auto bailout bill Wednesday...a vote they are already telling us privately they expect to fail.
Veteran Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski went to the Senate floor today and demanded this lame duck session "should neither be lame nor should we duck the big issues facing our country."
The way it’s going now, she’s not likely to get her wish.
Both parties will use this week to show the newbies around, elect their leadership for next Congress, maybe pass an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, and then get out of town for the rest of the year.
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