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TheStreet Open House

6 Biggest Political Issues of 2011

By Rob Smith, Will Nordwind, Bill Donovan and Greg Gill

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The 112th Congress has been sworn in, committees are finalizing their rosters and laying out their agendas and 106 new members are slowly getting adjusted to their new lives on Capitol Hill.

With 87 of those newly elected members being Republicans, the House of Representatives has been given quite a makeover. With new leadership comes change, which is what newly elected Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has promised.

After a weeklong pause in the House to reflect on the shooting in Arizona that left six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) critically injured, lawmakers were back to work last week, starting with a debate over the repeal of the health-care reform law. The health-care debate will weigh heavily on the agenda of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while the House Financial Services Committee will look to breakdown the Dodd-Frank Act.

The highly debated issue of earmarking in Congress continues with a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding it. With Republicans taking the majority in the House, and Democrats retaining their power in the Senate, the 112th Congress will look to strike some sort of balance to accomplish their agenda items over the next two years.

Boehner Elected Speaker, Promises Transparency

On Jan. 5, Boehner was elected speaker of the House of Representatives. Boehner's election came as a result of the Republican electoral wins in November. Republicans now hold a 242-193 majority in the House.

Boehner promised a more open and transparent operational style than Republicans thought was available to them under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA). To that end, new House rules now require that every piece of legislation considered on the House floor must be cross-referenced with a citation in the U.S. Constitution that provides authority to do so. Additionally, Boehner added one elected leadership position to an incoming member of the freshman class, which went to newly elected Rep. Kristi Noem (SD).

Boehner has repeatedly stressed during interviews that the election was not about him or the Republican House Conference. Rather, it was about the electorate sending a message that they want Congress to focus less on partisan politics and more on jobs and the economy. As a result, Boehner has directed his newly elected committee chairmen to focus on guiding legislation through the process that will help stimulate the economy and create jobs for the unemployed. Look for those same committee chairmen to focus on two or three jurisdictional issues they believe can both garner consensus in the House and receive attention in the Senate.

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