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US Republicans take reins of new Congress, start first day on Trump agenda

The new Republican-dominated US Congress has convened its first session, beginning with setting plans to enact President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda for tax cuts and the repealing of outgoing President Barack Obama’s health care law.

US lawmakers commenced the first session of the 115th Congress on Tuesday, laying the groundwork for implementing Trump’s agenda as their top legislative priority regarding tax cuts, rolling back financial and environmental regulations, and reversing Obama’s health insurance program, known as Obamacare.

Republican lawmakers began the session in the hope of getting a quick start on priorities that had been blocked during the outgoing president’s eight years in office.

The 100-seat US Senate re-elected Paul Ryan as the speaker of the House of Representatives, a role that will have him oversee and guide many of the efforts to impose Republican changes to the existing laws.

Trump has made it clear since his election victory that he wants to move quickly towards the revocation of Obamacare Act, signed in 2010.

“People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn’t work, and it is not affordable,” Trump said in a Tuesday tweet, adding that, “It is lousy healthcare.”

Republicans are currently faced with dilemmas on a replacement program to provide health insurance to people who do not have a plan at work or cannot afford private coverage. They say it could take years to develop a new program.

Republican lawmakers also voted Tuesday to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent and nonpartisan ethics office that investigates allegations of misconduct by legislators in the lower chamber of Congress.

The move, severely criticized by Democrats and some Republicans as an attempt to undermine transparency, was undone later in the day as House Republicans dropped the amendment.

The OCE was created under the leadership of Representative Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California and former House speaker.

“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Trump is set to be sworn in as president on January 20. The president-elect has expressed support for much of the Republican congressional agenda.

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