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Senator Jim DeMint on Thursday announced that he will not return to the new Congress, and instead will resign early next month. DeMint will instead lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Making an already head-splittingly difficult deal on the fiscal cliff even harder to resolve is a set of three rules by which the Republicans who run the House play.

These are not official regulations; they're more shibboleths that House GOP leaders have adopted in recent years. And those rules are leaving House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, little room to maneuver as lawmakers try to avoid a set of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year.

1. "The majority of the majority"

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I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with talk of immigration reform. Dealing with the estimated 12 million immigrants now in the U.S. illegally has long been a priority, primarily of Democrats. Three weeks ago, Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. As NPR's David Welna reports, Senate Republicans weighed in today, unveiling legislation that would give some undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

New Year's Day typically inspires hope and new beginnings. But this next one may be cause for trepidation. Tax cuts for all income levels expire on Jan. 1, 2013, and most federal programs will face a 10 percent haircut — because Congress failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan.

Fresh off his re-election, a politically fortified President Obama summoned the top four congressional leaders to the White House on Friday for the first of what could be many rounds of talks for a deal to avert fiscal calamity.

The meeting was part of the opening moves to keep the nation from sailing over the so-called "fiscal cliff" — those across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts set to kick in at year's end.

In welcoming the quartet of lawmakers, Obama struck a conciliatory note.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Three congressional hearings, two of them closed to the public, focused today on the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in those attacks, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. As NPR's David Welna reports, the only open hearing today on Benghazi turned into a political slugfest.

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Congress is beginning a busy post-election session. Lawmakers have weeks to prevent higher taxes and spending cuts due to take effect at the end of the year. Then there are hearings on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya and the scandal over the affair that ended the career of CIA Chief David Petraeus. Here's NPR's David Welna.

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With most of the elections settled, the winners must now determine how they will deal with the impending "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases that happen in two months. David Welna reports.

The impact of Superstorm Sandy has become the main focus of both presidential candidates, but what politicking does remain has Toledo, Ohio, at its center.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. In Iowa, two long-time members of the House of Representatives are waging a nasty reelection battle that will leave one of them out of a job come January. Both had their districts redrawn into one new district after Iowa lost a seat through reapportionment. NPR's David Welna reports on this rare incumbent face-off.

More than a year after winning Iowa's Straw Poll for the GOP presidential nomination, and more than nine months after dropping out of that race, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is back on the campaign trail.

This time she's after a fourth term representing Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, and Bachmann's campaign is running into stiff competition.

Here's one thing President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could agree on during their first debate this week: Something has to be done about the enormous gap between what the federal government collects in taxes and what it spends.

But the two men fundamentally disagree on what to do about that budget deficit.

The Problem

It might seem counterintuitive, but the man running against Republican Linda McMahon in her second attempt at becoming Connecticut's first female senator wants this race to be all about women.

Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy released an ad this week, hammering McMahon's stance on women's health and reminding voters of McMahon's former role as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Just a few months ago, most observers believed Republicans had a pretty decent chance to take control of the U.S. Senate. Now, that doesn't seem as likely.

Cuban-Americans know a thing or two about what can happen when a government seizes wealth and redistributes it, as Fidel Castro's regime did five decades ago in Cuba.

So Mitt Romney had an especially receptive audience Wednesday night at a rally of Cuban-Americans in Miami, when he launched his campaign's latest line of attack on President Obama.

"He said some years ago something which we're hearing about today on the Internet," Romney told the crowd. "He said that he believes in redistribution."

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Far more than half of Americans pay some form of federal, state and local taxes. But one thing all parties seem to agree on, is that the proportion of people not paying federal income taxes has grown larger in recent years.

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Congress roared into town last week after a five-week break. Lawmakers will be heading back home just as quickly this week. They're expected to complete exactly one big item before pulling the plug on this briefest of sessions: a stopgap spending measure that keeps the government from shutting down during the next six months.

Members of both parties prefer tackling the mountain of unfinished business they leave behind only after the November election.

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At the rate we're going, there may be plenty of news before those debates. Today, the White House is expected to release a list of budget cuts totaling about $100 billion. At the end of last year's debt ceiling battle, Congress voted to either agree on deficit reductions or these big automatic across-the-board cuts known as sequestration would go into affect. They didn't agree, so here we are.

As NPR's David Welna reports, many Republicans who voted for sequestration now oppose it.

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Speaking to the Democratic Convention last night, President Obama spoke a line that played off a famous speech by John F. Kennedy. Kennedy said people should ask what they can do for their country.

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And after delivering a tribute to her husband on the opening night at the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday by reaching out to groups of minority delegates there in Charlotte. NPR's David Welna reports.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let's give a rousing welcome for the first lady, Michelle Obama.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The African-American caucus was fired up yesterday when Mrs. Obama got there just hours after she brought down the house at the convention arena. She was still getting going.

Hispanics were a major focus of the program at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Democrats, beginning their convention in Charlotte, N.C., are hoping to capitalize on their current advantage with Hispanic voters.

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