The Republican agenda for the new Congress that convenes Wednesday may have a greater impact on the 2012 elections than on the lives of Americans in the next two years.
Republicans promise to cut spending, roll back President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and prevent unelected bureaucrats from expanding the government's role in society through regulations that tell people what they must or can't do. Getting this agenda through the House may be easier than in the Senate, given the GOP's 241-194 majority in the House. Getting the Senate to act will be a challenge. Democrats still hold an edge there, though smaller than the one Obama had during his first two years in the White House.
Even if the next two years end in gridlock, Republicans will have built a record for the next election that they hope will demonstrate to voters that they can get it right.
House Republicans also pledge to hold tough investigations and hearings on the president's programs and policies, ending the free pass that Democratic committee chairmen gave the Obama administration the past two years.
Republicans insist they'll bring key administration officials before congressional microphones and that the public can watch the webcasts. The friendly tone of inquiry from Democratic chairmen will be replaced by Republicans demanding answers to these questions: What's the purpose of this program? Is this the best use of the taxpayers' money?