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US Congress kicks off new year session with 'plates full'


AFP
Washington
Congress hit the ground running for 2018 on Wednesday, with US President Donald Trump facing a two-week deadline to forge a compromise between Republicans and Democrats that avoids a government shutdown and prevents mass deportations.
The new year's session kicks off with two Democrats being sworn in as new members of the US Senate, narrowing the chamber's already slim Republican majority just as negotiations over crunch issues intensify.
At the top of the agenda is funding the federal government by a January 19 deadline, after lawmakers were unable to strike a long-term budget deal in December.
Failure to do so would trigger a government shutdown, a potentially costly political outcome for Republicans -- who control both chambers of Congress and the White House -- just months before November's mid-term elections.
Democrats showed in 2017 that their grassroots activism was getting results in swing states and traditionally Republican territory.
And with Trump's poor approval ratings, they see 2018 as a prime opportunity to reclaim the majority in either the Senate or the House of Representatives -- or both.
With the budget deadline fast approaching, the top four leaders in Congress, two Democrats and two Republicans, will huddle with White House staff Wednesday in the US Capitol in a bid to set budget caps for military and domestic spending for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.
In a note to fellow Democrats on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer would seek to avoid a"catastrophic shutdown" of the government.

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