Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that the chamber’s first vote of the year will be to scrap President Barack Obama’s health care law. | AP Photo

Contentious confirmation fights, a GOP assault on Obamacare — and, more than likely, hints of Republican infighting to come.

Welcome to the new Congress.

Lawmakers convene in Washington on Tuesday for the 115th Congress, kicking into high gear as they prepare for the incoming Trump administration and lay the groundwork to pass major GOP priorities.

Since Republicans will control all the levers of power in Washington for the first time in almost a decade, they’ll hit the ground running on some issues: Both chambers, for example, hope to pass a budget blueprint that makes a critical down payment on repealing Obamacare even before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

But it won’t take long for the inherent divide between Senate and House Republicans to rear its head. The House wants to pass a number of bills to scrap Obama-era rules and curb executive branch regulatory powers. But those will be a much heavier lift in the upper chamber.

Here’s a look at what Hill Republicans will try to accomplish the first month of the 115th Congress — and their likelihood of success.

Obamacare repeal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that the chamber’s first vote of the year will be to scrap President Barack Obama’s health care law. The Kentucky Republican is making good on that promise this week by bringing to the floor a budget that would unlock a fast-track process enabling Republicans to jam repeal through Congress along party lines.

After the Senate acts, the House will follow suit, as soon as the second week back from the holiday recess. And Republicans hope to clear the budget before Trump’s inauguration.

Technically, the bill won’t include an official repeal. Rather, the fast-track process, known as reconciliation, contains instructions for committees to write repeal bills. Republicans want to pass repeal legislation in the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, but there could be disagreements about which elements of Obamacare they want to demolish and how to achieve their goals.

The resulting sprint could feel more like a marathon as Democrats lay plans for a messaging offensive against Trump and the GOP, charging them with depriving millions of Americans of health care with no clear plan for what comes next.

Snags: Internal GOP disagreements over the substance of the repeal bill are likely. Democratic resistance, most significantly in the Senate, is guaranteed.

Outlook:Almost assured. Timing hiccups may crop up, but it’s a matter of when — not if — a repeal bill passes.


The Senate is heading toward a partisan showdown over Trump’s Cabinet. Incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned McConnell against scheduling simultaneous confirmation hearings. And Democrats are already turning Rex Tillerson, tapped for secretary of state, into a test case for a broader push to vet the tax returns of Trump’s multi-billionaire cast of advisers.

But the ExxonMobil CEO won’t be the only Trump nominee subject to intense scrutiny by Democrats, who are in no mood to treat the president-elect with the same deference on nominations that Republicans showed…