MADISON, Wis. - Day one of the 113th Congress is officially in the books, with two new members from Wisconsin.
Thursday was largely a day of ceremony in Washington with new members formally taking the oath of office, and the House voting on rules of the chamber. But with some big decisions looming, new members of Congress will need to act to avert a government shutdown or worse.
Former House of Representatives member Tammy Baldwin was among about a dozen new U.S. senators taking the oath. Baldwin is the first woman to take office in the Senate from Wisconsin and also the first openly gay candidate ever elected to the chamber.
The ceremony will end soon enough as debates begin in earnest on the debt limit, which was hit Monday, and billions in automatic spending cuts following a high-profile deal on the fiscal cliff.
"That was important work but there's much left to be done," Baldwin said. "My priority as we begin to tackle those issues is that we significantly impact our deficit but we do so without shortchanging our people's future."18006314
Baldwin said she'd bring troops home from Afghanistan to cut spending and go after corporate subsidies, but said the debt limit shouldn't be held hostage for cuts.
"Our nation's credit rating was downgraded because of these games, and I call on my former House colleagues and my new Senate colleagues to recognize that is not good for our nation," Baldwin said.
The congressman replacing Baldwin in the House, Madison's Mark Pocan, agrees. But as he takes the oath, he said he understands the need to balance the budget.
"I think there are some things that we have to cut. We don't have a choice, like we had to in Wisconsin when I was the finance chair," said Pocan. "I think we can do them with certain values in mind and one of those is protecting the middle class. But I think everything from defense to every other program has to be on the table when you look at these cuts if we're ever going to get out of the debt that we have."
Those spending cuts will need to be debated in the next two months. They were supposed to take effect Jan. 1 but decisions on cuts were delayed by the fiscal cliff deal.