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US 111th Congress convenes
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The US House of Representatives and the Senate convened for the 111th Congress on Tuesday with new members elected on November 4 elections and tasks to address the country's economic emergencies, among other issues.

The first day back to work in the House began with reelection of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, over her Republican rival with an overwhelming majority, making her the first female to be reelected to that post.

Pelosi vowed to "hit the ground running" on Obama's agenda during the "very, very exciting time" and pledged to work together in a bipartisan way "with great civility, with great fiscal discipline."

Democratic party found itself in a dominant position in both of the two floors as a result of successful congressional election on November 4. The joy is combined with the prospect that the White House, which has been home for Republican party for eight years, is turned over to the Democratic President-elect Barack Obama.

A total of nine new senators and 54 House members as well as two freshmen non-voting delegates moved in their offices in the Capitol Hill, and joined veteran fellows in mapping strategies for the country to confront the ongoing economic crisis, rising unemployment and overseas war demands.

However, what tops their agenda is to review cabinet nominees who are supposed to take office with Obama on January 20 if approved.

Joe Biden, a Senator from Delaware for decades, was sworn on Tuesday to the new Congress, but his seat is expected to vacated in two weeks as he moves to the office of vice president.

His place in the floor will be replaced by his former longtime aide, Edward Kaufman, who is expected to hold the seat for just two years until Biden's son, Beau, can run for the office after finishing his military duties in Iraq.

Another senator-to-go, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady, will take over the secretary of state and leave it to New York governor to decide on her successor. Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, who has been named by Obama as the secretary of interior, is also leaving for the White House.

The transition of Congress members is not all smooth. The seat in the Senate vacated by Obama's election as president was still empty on Tuesday as the designated successor was denied.

"My credentials were not in order, I will not be accepted, I will not be seated," said former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, 71, to reporters outside the Capitol Hill.

He was appointed by Illinois' governor, Rod Blagojevich, who has been charged with corruption but refused to resign from his post, leaving his authority questioned by the state and federal lawmakers.

Democrats, including Obama, have argued that the corruption charges against their fellow party member Blagojevich would strip credibility from anyone he appoints to the seat.

"Mr. Burris is not in possession of the necessary credentials from the state of Illinois," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in his speech opening the new session of Congress.

A Senate seat from Minnesota is also undecided as two candidates were still disputing over vote recounting results.

Democrat Al Franken is the apparent winner but Republican incumbent Norm Coleman is filing a legal challenge. The Republican party also denied the race is over.

(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2009)

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