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The majority leader: Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is the Senate floor leader and the Democratic Caucus chairman, a role that in the GOP is divided among several lawmakers. But as majority leader, he has certain unique privileges that allow him to determine which bills see the light of day, such as calling legislation off the Senate calendar (through crafting unanimous consent agreements governing debate time, or more often invoking cloture) and the right of first recognition if several senators are seeking recognition at the same time.
The majority leader: Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) is also the majority whip and counts heads for the party, ensuring that
Democrats have the votes to invoke cloture and bring important planks of their agenda
to the floor.
The Democratic Policy Committee chairman: Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will be chief legislative and policy strategist for the next two years, developing policy proposals for Senate Democrats as well as providing research and legislative support for the embattled majority.
The minority leader: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is known as a master of Senate procedure and has the right of second recognition, behind Reid, on the Senate floor. But McConnell's real power derives from his ability to obstruct Senate procedure in myriad ways, forcing the majority to work with him.
The Republican whip: Also known as the assistant Senate minority leader, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is responsible for mobilizing votes within his party in support of an issue and acting as a liaison with the leadership. But his role can grow or decrease in scope depending on the time spent by the majority leader on the Senate floor.
The Senate Republican Conference chairman: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is head of the group of GOP senators that decides party strategy, allots committee assignments and chooses party leadership. Unlike Democrats, Republicans' conference chair has a separate role from that of the floor leader.
OLD HOUSE RULE
No "Constitutional Authority Statement" was required. A similar statement was required only for bills reported out of committee and was included in the committee report.
NEW HOUSE RULE
All proposed bills must be accompanied by a "Constitutional Authority Statement" that notes the specific section of the Constitution that empowers Congress to enact the legislation.
Only bills reported out of committee were required to be "made available" three days before a vote, and they were not required to be posted online.
All bills must be posted online for three days before they are put up for a vote.
Spending increases could be paid for by spending cuts or tax increases.
Spending increases have to be offset by cuts of an equal or greater amount elsewhere and cannot be paid for by tax increases.
Committee chairmen did not have term limits.
Committee chairmen have a six-year term limit.
Legislation was not required to be posted online before it was marked up.
The text of legislation must be posted online 24 hours before it is due to be marked up in committee; the House Rules Committee is exempt from this rule.
The "Gephardt Rule" allowed the House to automatically raise the debt limit when a joint budget resolution was adopted.
A new rule eliminates automatic debt-limit increase upon passage of joint budget resolutions.
The Constitution has never been read in full on the House floor.
A full reading of the Constitution will take place on Thursday, the second day of the 112th Congress.
Three committees have new names: The Committee on Education and Labor is now the Committee on Education and the Workforce; the Committee on Science and Technology is now the Committee on Science, Space and Technology; and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is now the Committee on Ethics.
FRESHMEN TO WATCH
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)
Noem will be one of two freshman liaisons to the House GOP leadership. The hunter, cattle-rancher and former assistant state majority leader is already being talked about as a potential challenger in 2014 to Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson. Noem was tapped last month to deliver the weekly House GOP radio address.
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.)
Scott was one of a large handful of Southern Republicans who ousted Blue Dog Democrats in the November elections. His victory over four-term Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) heralded a major shift in Southern politics and helped tip the House to Republicans. Scott's colleagues seem to understand that his legislative savvy will come in handy on Capitol Hill: They picked him as their class president.
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
Scott and fellow freshman Allen West will be the only two black Republicans in the House during the 112th Congress. Scott first drew national attention when he beat Strom Thurmond's son Paul in the 2010 GOP primary. But he was well-known in the Palmetto State for leading a legal battle for the right to display the Ten Commandments outside of the Charleston City Council chamber. Along with Noem, he will be a liaison to the House GOP leadership.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)
A self-described "right-wing extremist," West is a tea party favorite who has denied Islam is a religion and who once called President Obama "the dumbest person walking around right now." West became a national cause celebre for conservatives when he was forced to retire from the Army in 2003 for presiding over the brutal interrogation of an Iraqi police officer who West wrongly believed had threatened to kill him.
Rep. Jaime Herrera (R-Wash.)
Herrera, a college intern in the George W. Bush White House, was elected at age 32 in the open-seat race to replace Rep. Brian Baird (D). She thinks House Republicans put themselves in the situation of having health-care reform foisted on them by President Obama by not acting sooner to control costs. "We basically asked for this," she once told the Oregonian.
STAFFERS TO WATCH
Executive director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Under DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.), Mook is trying to orchestrate a House Democratic comeback in 2012 after the party suffered record losses in 2010. "Certainly the last cycle was very tough," Mook said. "But there are a lot of opportunities ahead of us."
Chief of staff, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
In just five years, Holmes has gone from a junior senator's office to heading McConnell's communications shop. At 31, he's taking the helm of McConnell's personal office, where his focus will turn toward serving Kentucky constituents and pushing for legislation to reduce spending, reduce the national debt and reform entitlement programs.
Director of new media, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio)
Schaper spent 2010 in charge of new media for the innovative communications team that rocketed Boehner to speaker. Watch for him to spend the session not only distributing Boehner's message but also helping the 85 new House Republicans learn the ropes of communicating online. "I'm probably most excited about learning from them," Schaper said.
Chief of staff, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Stafford's job is a high-profile test case for the fortunes of the tea party movement in Washington. It's telling that as his top staffer, Paul chose Stafford, a campaign aide who had never worked on the Hill. That's not to say that Stafford doesn't know his way around the legislative process. He spent the past dozen years at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Assistant for policy to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio)
In more than 15 years on the Hill, Herrle has worked for five members. As Boehner steps into the role of speaker, she has become his point person for coordinating with other House and Senate Republican leaders. Her top priority is organizing a united front to cut spending and "get this country back on solid fiscal footing," she said.
Their adoption marks the first move in what is expected to be an extended battle between Republicans and the White House over fiscal policy.
What will the newest members of the 112th Congress be tweeting as they're sworn in tomorrow? Follow along with this handy aggregator.