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100th Congress Begins With Fast Challenges to Reagan : Iran, Water, Budget Bills on Agenda

January 06, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The 100th Congress opened for business today with the Democrats back in charge of the Senate, a new Speaker on the rostrum in the House and ready-made challenges to President Reagan over the budget, the Iran- contra scandal and clean water legislation waiting for both chambers.

The House convened precisely at noon, and the Senate was called to order a few minutes later by Vice President George Bush, who then swore in the 34 senators--13 of them freshmen--elected in November.

In the crowded House chamber, where many of the members brought their families to the floor for the oath-taking ceremony, the usual party line vote elected Rep. Jim Wright (D-Tex.) to be the 49th Speaker, succeeding retired Rep. Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr.(D-Mass.).

The two-year 100th Congress opened with Democrats holding a 258-177 majority in the House.

Byrd Resumes Post

In the Senate, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia resumed the post of majority leader based on the Democrats' 55-45 edge. Byrd had been majority leader until Reagan's 1980 landslide election swept Democrats into the minority.

The biggest item facing the new Congress was the $1-trillion 1988 budget submitted Monday by President Reagan, and the Senate Budget Committee scheduled its first hearings on the record-high spending plan Wednesday.

Moments after the Senate convened today, Byrd took a swipe at the Administration for the massive deficits that have accumulated in recent years.

"It has taken this Administration just five years to add over $1 trillion to the national debt," Byrd said. "If five months from now we are united on how we address the deficit, and we have the President on board, we will have made substantial progress. The process of moving the federal deficit downward is, as we all know, a political process."

Separate Iran Inquiries

Both the House and Senate plan separate investigations of the Iran arms- contra aid issue that blew up in November. The Senate quickly took up a resolution creating a special Watergate-style committee to conduct the investigation. The House was expected to set up its own committee Wednesday.

In what may become the first confrontation with Reagan, Democratic leaders on both sides quickly reintroduced the Clean Water Bill that was passed by the last Congress but vetoed by the President.

Rep. James J. Howard (D-N.J.), chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, said the recycled legislation will be passed Thursday by the House, which approved the 1986 version, 408-0, in October.

In the Senate, Democratic Sen, Quentin N. Burdick of North Dakota said, "We're giving the President a second chance." Burdick, Senate Environment Committee chairman, is one of 72 Senate co-sponsors of the bill the bipartisan bloc hopes to send to Reagan's desk next week.

While they offered Reagan an olive branch, senators also warned that he will start the final years of his presidency with a major defeat if he vetoes the bill a second time.

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