Huffpost Politics

U.S. Congress' Republican Leaders Face Tests

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US CONGRESS
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) | AP

Re-elected presidents know all too well that second terms can be treacherous. Returning Republican congressional leaders may find the next few years won't be a picnic for them, either.

As the 113th Congress convened Thursday, both House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky were drawing heat from conservatives for supporting the "fiscal-cliff" deal.

Still, Boehner was easily given another two-year term as speaker in the still GOP dominated chamber – despite a few really bad days.

The Ohio Republican had been forced to the sidelines as McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden negotiated the compromise Congress sent President Barack Obama on New Year's Day to avoid a cliff of sudden tax increases and spending cuts.

Then, his postponement of a $60 billion aid package for states pummeled by Superstorm Sandy angered both sides. Boehner now has scheduled an initial vote for Friday.

"We're sent here not to be something, but to do something," Boehner said in his acceptance speech. "Or as I like to call it, doing the right thing."

McConnell, who stays Senate minority leader, has drawn praise for his negotiating skills on the "fiscal-cliff" agreement. But his role was denounced by Kentucky tea-party factions and other conservatives – and could prompt a re-election challenge from the right in 2014.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are also keeping their jobs.

The "fiscal-cliff" deal is something of a hot potato for both parties. Both found parts to criticize.

While Boehner voted for it, he didn't speak on its behalf during House debate.

And even though Obama pushed the deal hard, it turned out to be a little hands-off for him as well. Literally.

Vacationing in Hawaii, he signed it Wednesday evening – but with an autopen, a mechanical device that copies his signature.

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Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum

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