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This Week In Congress: Friday, Oct. 29

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From Capitol News Connection:

After months of declarations about a countdown, the build up, the "final throes," it really is the near-eve of the midterm election.

On the subject of this year's all-out spending spree: the numbers are unprecedented, even if the spirit of politicking isn't, says Senate historian Don Ritchie.

To a great extent, the handling of oft-recurring issues like campaign finance reform, not to mention all the new ones, will be determined by the all-important committees.

Over time, the relative power of committees and committee chairs has ebbed and flowed. These days, each individual Senator holds more sway. A measure of democracy, says Ritchie, albeit at the expense of some of the efficiency of the bad old days.

Today’s committee chair is less like a baron and more like a lion-tamer, standing in the middle with a whip and a chair.

This brings us to the upcoming lame duck--that period of time between the election and a new Congress being sworn-in in January.

Over the next two months, the parties will be sorting out their agendas for the next two years.

"It's an exciting time but one that's not very public and outside," says Deputy Historian of the House Fred Beuttler. "People aren't going to be seeing it because much of it is going to be in internal party conferences or caucuses."

One of the key tasks for the party in charge in each chamber will be to select, appoint and/or elect the committee chairs. In the event of a Republican majority in the House, that process will be complicated somewhat, as Republican leaders decide how to interpret and implement their own rules, which impose three-year term limits on most committee chairs. Those choices will have wide-ranging legislative consequences.

So from history's lips to today's ear: if Republicans take the House on Tuesday, expect to hear a lot more about arguably the chamber's most uniquely-powerful entity: the Rules Committee.

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