Washington Honors Ford, Prepares for Change It's a busy week in Washington as 2007 begins. Tuesday, President Bush leads the nation at a memorial service to honor the late President Ford. And Thursday, the 110th Congress is sworn in, with the Democrats taking charge of both chambers. NPR's Senior Washington Editor, Ron Elving, talks to Melissa Block about what we can expect.
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Washington Honors Ford, Prepares for Change

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Washington Honors Ford, Prepares for Change

Washington Honors Ford, Prepares for Change

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

This was always going to be a big week in Washington, with the new Congress scheduled to be sworn in. Of course, the November election that put Democrats in control made that an even bigger event. Then there were the deliberations at the White House over Iraq. The president is expected to announce his decision soon about whether to send more troops.

Add the funeral for former President Gerald Ford and this becomes an unusually busy first week of the year. We'll hear about the New Year in Washington and as part of program, and with us now is NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving.

Ron, let's start with tomorrow's big event. That's the funeral service for former President Ford.

RON ELVING: It will be a very big event, Melissa. It's going to be a full house at the Washington National Cathedral at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time. The president will deliver one of the eulogies. Also Henry Kissinger and Tom Brokaw will give eulogies. And in terms of turnout, it will be especially big in contrast to the rather sparsely attended Saturday evening service in the Capitol Rotunda.

Very few of the leading folks from the administration or Congress or other dignitaries were there and it was, of course, a holiday weekend. Most of these people were traveling or at home. And tomorrow there'll be a lot of effort to make up for that and after the funeral the body will be flown back to Grand Rapids, Michigan for one more private service and then lying in repose and internment Wednesday at the Ford Presidential Library in Grand Rapids.

BLOCK: And as we mentioned, Congress will be under new management also this week. Tell us about the ceremony that will kick off the 110th Congress.

ELVING: It's a little different from one chamber to the other. The entire House is elected every two years so they all stand up and take the oath together. Very dramatic. Their families up in the galleries. In the Senate, it's just a third of the Senate that gets elected or reelected each November so just those 33 members will be taking the oath. The rest are carried over.

After the oath in both chambers, they proceed to elect their leaders and that's ceremonial, too, because the parties really did all that back in November and now they're just making it official.

And right after that, the younger children up in the galleries start to go bad and so they wrap things up and there's a lot of picture taking and people go home.

BLOCK: And Democrats on the House side have pledged a busy first week. What's on the agenda?

ELVING: Usually at this point the Congress goes - right after its swearing in, it goes out on sort of a recess unofficially for several weeks until the State of the Union.

But this year, particularly in the House where the Democrats taking over are presenting the most contrast to their Republican predecessors, they really want to hit the ground running and get a lot done. So instead of trying to have a big 100 days, they're going to try to have a big 100 hours and that'll be spread out over several weeks.

It's hours of floor business time. And they will be talking about minimum wage, pay-as-you-go rules for budgeting, adopting all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Quite a few things they want to do in a big hurry in the next several weeks.

BLOCK: And one more item on that agenda is a bill that would undo part of the new Medicare prescription drug plan.

ELVING: That's correct and there's not at this point a great deal of agreement as to whether or not you can really achieve these savings but they are going to try to save money through group bargaining. This is something that the Democrats promised throughout the 2006 campaign.

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