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January 18, 2011 By Christopher Williams

Congress is officially back in session today with a busy agenda for the week.  Fresh from their retreat at the end of last week, House Republicans will begin with a vote to repeal the health care overhaul legislation.  After this debate, priority will return to cutting spending as Congress must take up the FY 2011 continuing resolution (CR), the FY 2012 budget request from the President, and raising the federal debt ceiling.  Right now, the FY 2011 CR funds the International Affairs Budget at $52.9, which is 10% less than the President’s request, and there may be efforts to make further cuts during debate.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Hu Jintao set for lavish White House reception on state visit (Ewan MacAskill – The Guardian)

The White House is to throw a lavish reception for the Chinese leader, Hu Jintao, on Wednesday in an effort to patch up relations after a difficult year dominated by tensions over currency rates, jobs, North Korea and other international issues. President Hu is due in Washington tomorrow for the start of a four-day visit, the highlight of which is to be a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening.

Smart Power

Global vaccine efforts offer hope to millions (Michael Gerson – The Washington Post)

In 2000, with startup money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) began operation, with the goal of introducing new or underused vaccines into poor countries. GAVI is an acronym that reeks of global bureaucracy, slow-moving secretariats and Geneva consultations. The organization, in contrast, has turned out to be innovative and effective.

Politics/Foreign Policy

House panel eyes reforms in U.N. (Seth McLaughlin – The Washington Times)

The new Republican majority in the House is poised to revive some old battles over the U.S. government’s financial contribution to the United Nations, vowing once again to use the power of America’s purse to force what it calls needed reforms at the world body. New House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told The Washington Times that she plans to use the threat to withhold U.S. dues payments to force U.N. officials to cut costs and clean up the organization’s image, a sharp break from the approach and political rhetoric used when Democrats ran the House.

The Arab Gdansk (Roger Cohen – The New York Times)

Is Tunis the Arab Gdansk? Big things start small. In Poland, the firing in 1980 of Anna Walentynowicz, a shipyard worker, led to strikes and the formation of the grassroots Solidarity movement that set in motion the unraveling of the Soviet empire. Walentynowicz, who was killed in a plane crash last year, once told me all they sought at the outset was “better money, improved work safety, a free trade union and my job back.”

A Foreign Policy of Fear (Dennis Jett – The Huffington Post)

A new foreign policy with House Republicans or the sum of our fears? With the Republicans taking over the House of Representatives, there has been much speculation about what policy changes will be made. The focus has been mainly on domestic issues, where the agenda is ambitious. The first priority seems to be to turn back the clock to the good old days when insurance companies got to determine your health.

Possible breakthrough over Iran’s nuclear program? (Paul Ingram – The Hill)

Iran resumes talks on its nuclear program with the EU, US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany on Thursday and Friday, in Istanbul. Previous talks in early December produced very little in terms of concrete results, but were hailed as successful because it was the first time the parties had met for several months, and discussions were broad and free-ranging. Familiar warnings have already been heard that these talks represent a last opportunity to find compromise, though with a twist.