Rolling into the new year

Obama eyes modest momentum on Capitol Hill in 2014.
Associated Press
Jan 4, 2014

President Barack Obama returns to Washington this weekend eager to test whether a modest budget deal passed in the waning days of 2013 can spark bipartisan momentum on Capitol Hill. As he opens his sixth year in office, he also faces legacy-defining decisions on the future of government surveillance programs and the American-led war in Afghanistan.

Looming over it all will be the November congressional elections, Obama's last chance to stock Capitol Hill with more Democratic lawmakers who could help him expand his presidential playing field.

For Republicans, those contests are an opportunity to seize control of the Senate, which would render Obama a lame duck for his final two years in the White House.

The wild card in 2014, for the White House and congressional Democrats facing re-election, will be the fate of the president's health care law. The website woes that tainted its launch have largely been resolved and enrollment has picked up. But the White House has been tight-lipped about who has enrolled, raising uncertainty about whether the insurance exchanges are on track to get the percentage of young and healthy people who are critical to keeping prices down.

The health care questions aside, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House enters the new year buoyed by the "modest amount of legislative momentum" generated by the December budget deal.

"We're hopeful Congress can build on it and make progress on other priorities where common ground exists," Earnest said.

It won't take long to test that proposition, with debates on unemployment insurance, budget spending and the government's borrowing limit expected in quick succession in the opening weeks of the year.

If all three can be resolved in drama-free fashion — by Washington standards — the White House believes it could create a more favorable atmosphere for Obama to pursue second-term priorities such as an immigration overhaul and a higher minimum wage, though both would still face steep odds.

The president is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Sunday morning after an overnight flight from his home state of Hawaii. He's spent two quiet weeks on the island of Oahu golfing and spending time with his family and childhood friends.

Upon his return, Obama will step back quickly into the debate over expired unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled a vote Monday night on a bill that would reinstate the benefits for three months.

Obama will try to make his case the following day, holding a White House event with some of those whose benefits expired at the end of December.

"For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year's resolution to do the right thing and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now."

The issue with the greatest potential to upset the tepid truce forged in December's budget deal is the debt ceiling. As part of the agreement that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown in October, Congress suspended the $16 trillion-plus debt limit. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says bookkeeping maneuvers he can use to keep under that ceiling will last only until late February or early March.

Obama once again has pledged that he won't negotiate on the matter. House Republicans will plot their strategy at a caucus retreat later this month.

Aside from fiscal matters, the president also must make decisions on what changes he wants in the government's vast surveillance powers. He's expected to announce those changes before his Jan. 28 State of the Union address, though an exact date has not been set.

A presidential commission presented Obama with more than 40 recommendations and the president signaled at a year-end news conference that he was open to many of the proposals. But he's facing pushback from his intelligence advisers, who argue that the widespread collection of telephone and Internet records is crucial to national security.

The president also must make a decision on the future of the American force presence in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is yet to sign a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. that the Obama administration says is crucial if American troops are to stay in the country after the war formally concludes at the end of 2014.

The White House had hoped to have the agreement signed before Jan. 1, but indicated there was some flexibility on that timing. Officials say that without an agreement soon, the U.S. will be forced to start making plans to bring all of its troops home.

"We are talking about weeks, not months, left on the clock," said Caitlin Hayden, Obama's National Security Council spokeswoman.

Aides say January's packed agenda will keep the president in Washington for much of the lead up to his State of the Union address, though some brief domestic travel may occur.

 

Comments

Really are you ...

Compare our strengths to weaknesses.
Unites States Armed Forces to United States Congress.

Must be pretty bad, everything I have tried to compare was blocked.

kURTje

Figures don't lie but liars figure. Obama was voted in. The 1 before him was selected. It will be interesting to see who the GOP has in this election.

Dr. Information

Bush was voted in. Sorry you keep living in the past. Must be miserable.

Dr. Information

Bush was voted in. Sorry you keep living in the past. Must be miserable.

grumpy

Go to Wikipedia 2000 presidential election results, by state. It shows the totals by state for every candidate. The Electorial College clearly shows who won according to the Constitution It was and still is the law of the land till an Amendment is passed and signed. Did that oath you took as a marine, to support and defend the Constitution mean anything to you, or were they just words you mumbled?

Contango

Re: "2000 presidential election"

As has been previously observed:

If VP Gore would have ONLY won his home state of TN, the election results in FL would have been inconsequential and he would have been elected POTUS.

Also, it was the Gore campaign which sued over FL, causing it to end up with the Supremes.

VP Gore conceded - end of story.

With an estimated net worth of $230 million, ol' Al has done alright with his crony investments in taxpayer subsidized green industries and programs.

Don't cry too hard for him. :)

BTW: Even Tipper dumped his *ss.

JudgeMeNot

0-bama thinks the American people are idiots. We know for a fact that this administration has poured money down a black hole of uncountable spending. 2014 is the start of 0-bama and his lame duck dynasty.

mikesee

Paint him green and he would like the Grinch!!

sugar

Someone needs to smack those big teeth right down his throat.

sugar

What about Melissa Harris Perry getting her big mouth smacked. LMAO!

The Big Dog's back

What about Repub Congressman trey radel doing smack?

Darwin's choice

Larry Davis doing his mentor....

Contango

coasterfan writes:

"Are things perfect under Obama? Of course not,"

The main reason for worldwide economic improvement - Debt

"Debt as a proportion of the economies of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will rise to 72.6 percent this year from 70.9 percent last year and 39 percent in 2007,"

See: "Bond Tab for Biggest Economies Seen at $7.43 Trillion in ’14 " (Bloomberg)

We merely 'papered over' the systemic problems & forestalled the 'day of reckoning.’

The illusion of a solution has been monetary, NOT political.

Dr. Information

Old donkey tooth and his ADD will try his best to direct everything away from the failure obamacare.

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