Congressional news

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a bill yesterday that would automatically grant green cards to international graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in the STEM fields, as well as significantly increase the number of H-1B visas, CQ.com reports.

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Early in 2013, Congress and the White House finally reached an agreement to keep the U.S. from plunging over “the fiscal cliff.” While this agreement included some provisions on spending and revenue and resolved the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, it delayed the more critical decisions needed to prevent sequestration and achieve long-term deficit reduction. Because of this, sequestration and its embedded automatic spending cuts were not avoided but simply delayed, until March 1 – a date that both coincides with the time the U.S. is expected to again hit the debt ceiling, and is only weeks before the current FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) expires, on March 27.

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By a vote of 94 to 3, the Senate overwhelming approved Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday afternoon as the United States’ next Secretary of State, The Washington Post reports. Kerry abstained from voting but watched the proceedings from the front of the Senate chamber. Three Republicans voted against Kerry: Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and Sen.

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Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) during his confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) expressed his great appreciation for the work of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has “served above and beyond duty,” and vowed to build on her record, as well as President Obama’s vision.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold a full committee confirmation hearing this coming Thursday, January 24, on the nomination of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to be Secretary of State.

The hearing will be held at 10:00 am in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

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President Obama nominated former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (R) to succeed Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, several news sources including the New York Times and the Washington Post report.

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The 113th Congress was sworn in today and its “demographic composition … is in some sense historic,” CNN reports.

Some interesting statistics on the new Congress compiled by CNN and The Week are below:

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Sen. John Kerry’s confirmation as Secretary of State is expected to go smoothly, due to wide support among both Democratic and Republican Senate colleagues and will, according to CQ.com, coincide with President Obama’s inauguration to a second term in office. Once confirmed, Sen. Kerry (D-MA) will bring decades of foreign policy experience and many vital personal relationships with U.S.

Update (December 21, 2012 - 2:15 pm):
In a press conference on December 21, 2012, President Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has announced that he will remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will not take over the Senate Appropriations Committee chairmanship, as previously suspected after the death of chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), CQ.com reports. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is likely to take over the Appropriations Committee chairmanship.

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