Dec. 1, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Debt Ceiling Looms Large for New Lawmakers

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , center, is flanked, from left, by freshman Sens. Joe Donnelly , Tim Kaine , Mazie K. Hirono , Christopher S. Murphy , Elizabeth Warren and Angus King , who all face a bevy of legislative work in their new roles.

Kaine went right to his former life in explaining what he would bring to the current fiscal policy debates in Congress: “the experience of a governor, I had to shrink a budget without shredding the safety net or hurting the economy.”

“Procedurally, we haven’t focused on it yet,” he said about the upcoming budget votes. “There are just hard decisions to be made, and I made a lot of them as a mayor and a governor. And I’ve got a really great staff on budget issues.”

The transition to being rank and file, intensified by the seriousness of the looming votes, is not unique to the Senate. On the House side, especially in the Republican caucus, where leaders have had difficulty corralling votes, much is to be learned in the coming weeks.

Freshman Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., vowed to scrutinize any budget deals but didn’t tip his hand on whether he would join the ranks of hard sells in the caucus of Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.

“Well, what I’m going to do — and I do this with everything — I’m one of those anal people that have to read all the background, everything like that, before I make an informed choice,” Cook said. “I spent too long in Sacramento, local government, you’ve got to always do your homework and check everything. You’re probably going to accuse me of having highlighters, and underscoring and underlining — I’m just a dumb Marine that’s got to surf through the thing and make sure I do it.”

Lawmakers likely will have to vote on the debt limit by February to avert default and by March to avoid government shutdown. Surf’s up, 113th Congress.

Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.

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