From immigration to trade, inaction in Congress

Evidence is mounting that lawmakers have all but wrapped up most consequential work of 2014, at least until the results of the fall elections are known
Associated Press
Feb 9, 2014

Little more than a week after Groundhog Day, the evidence is mounting that lawmakers have all but wrapped up their most consequential work of 2014, at least until the results of the fall elections are known.

"We've got a lot of things on our plate," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said recently when asked what Congress will be busy with this year, but he predicted no breakthrough accomplishments on immigration, taxes or any other area.

"Why don't we just pack up and go home?" countered House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California after Boehner blamed President Barack Obama for lack of movement on immigration. "What we're supposed to do is legislate and not make up excuses as to why we don't."

Immigration legislation is hardly the only area where inaction is the likeliest outcome.

A Senate-passed bill has fallen into the congressional equivalent of a black hole in the House, where conservative critics cite a changing series of reasons for not wanting to take action.

Initially, they said they didn't want to vote on a bill because they oppose amnesty for immigrants living in the country illegally. Then they observed it would be a political mistake to shift focus away from their own opposition to the health care law, which unites them, and turn it onto an issue that divides them. Most recently, Boehner, who has said repeatedly he wants to pass an immigration bill, has joined others in citing a lack of trust with Obama as a reason for inaction.

If immigration legislation is moribund in the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has made it clear he doesn't intend to seek passage of a second Obama priority, this one a bill to facilitate passage of trade deals with Europe and Asia.

"I'm against fast track," said the man who sets the Senate's agenda, referring to the measure Obama wants. "I think everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now."

The legislation is opposed by large segments of organized labor, the very unions that Democrats will be counting on to pour money and manpower into their bid to hold control of the Senate in the November election.

Republicans need to gain six seats to win a majority. They say they increasingly are bullish about their prospects, what with the country generally pessimistic about the future, Obama's favorability ratings well below the levels of his re-election campaign, and controversies afflicting the president's health law.

While Reid hasn't said so, other lawmakers and aides speculate that trade could top the agenda of any postelection session of Congress.

An overhaul of tax laws seems further off than it did a year ago. There was scant evidence of progress in 2013, and now a transition is occurring at the Senate Finance Committee, where Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has yet to announce his priorities as incoming chairman. He will succeed Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who was confirmed on Thursday as ambassador to China.

Deficit reduction, the driving force of the tea party-heavy House majority, now occupies a back seat, and the projected deficit for the current budget year is the lowest since George W. Bush was in the White House.

Nor do Republicans appear likely to compromise any time soon on an increase in the minimum wage or other items on Obama's agenda.

The first bill the Democrats put on the Senate floor this year, to renew benefits for the long-term unemployed, is stalled by Republican opposition. Even an eventual compromise wouldn't be much to brag about. Congress has passed similar bills repeatedly in the wake of past economic downturns.

Not that much of significance has been done up until now.

With much fanfare, lawmakers recently completed work on a five-year farm bill — two years late.

By month's end, lawmakers are virtually certain to raise the nation's debt limit. That, too, is a relatively routine measure, even if in recent years it has passed only after considerable brinkmanship.

Another potential area for compromise is legislation to overhaul the system for reimbursing doctors who treat Medicare patients.

The bipartisan supporters of a measure along those lines have yet to agree on how to offset the cost, though.

 

Comments

Donegan

Obama has been working on TPP for years now, When he signs it listen for the whooshing sound. That will be whats left of the jobs leaving the country.

There you go again

I blame our President for his lack of leadership, which leads to a lack of bi-partisanship in Congress. The Divider-in-Chief has proven he's not a compromiser-he is, after all, responsible for the country.

The Big Dog's back

Dream on.

There you go again

What part should I dream about? That Obama will call it quits so we don't have deal with the lies and coverups? That's what I'm dreaming about, son.

deertracker

Keep dreaming. I love that he refuses to kiss any republicon butt! Kiss your own butts republicons!

grumpy

Yes Clinton showed us all how good it is to not compromise when you lose your majorities after your first two years. He stood his ground for what? 2 weeks and started making nice with the opposite party and got things done. Reagan didn't have either house of congress when he was elected. He got things done by talking to the opposite party. Obama had majorities for his first two years and told the repubes he won, you lost, and barely passed obamacare, and nothing since.

Makes it obvious that "leaders" like obama are correct when they don't compromise and don't even meet with the opposite party. It shows by how much Clinton and Reagan got done when they talked and made deals. Obama is showing how "smart' he is by not talking, bad part is he gets nothing done, but it is great that you "love" that he doesn't talk to repubes. Great observation.

Contango

Re: "I love that he refuses to kiss any republicon butt!"

Politics is the art of compromise.

Pres. Obama talks a good game, but doesn't deliver.

I would NEVER stake him in a poker game. He would go 'all in' and lose BIG most of the time.

Dr. Information

Obama is loosening the rules for people who have aided terrorists and their pursuit to become citizens. That's about sums up Obama in a nutshell. He's putting this country at risk.

mikeylikesit

just another day in the oval outhouse for our muslim loving prez..

rezzy

Barak Obama doesn't need Congress anyhow. He already said that he will exercise socialist behavior using executive orders to bypass the constitution. King Obama!

eriemom

Just because we consistently hear from the obstructionists that it is all Obama's fault doesn't mean that it is true.

Donegan

pri·or·i·ty
[prahy-awr-i-tee, -or-] Show IPA
noun, plural pri·or·i·ties for 2–4.
1.
the state or quality of being earlier in time, occurrence, etc.
2.
the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence.
3.
the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies, services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.
4.
something given special attention.
Just so you understand what a priority is.
Now Healthcare (Killing jobs), Global warming regulations (Killing jobs), under the table Trade agreements (If signed will kill the rest of the jobs)are all Obama priorities that he is currently pushing through government "With or without congress".
Guess where your "jobs" fit into his priorities? Anyone could see if it was a priority he would be working on it instead of killing jobs.

deertracker

Agreed!

bucknut36

This Congress has the lowest approval rating of any Congress in our history. This Congress is also the richest Congress of any Congress in our history. They are all over paid and self serving . None of them give a damn about the average citizen and one party is just as bad as the other. They the only thing they they agree on is their lavish pay, benefits, pension, perks and lifestyle!

Stop It

+1

OSUBuckeye59

100% agree. Our Founding Fathers imagined a Congress of citizen legislators. James Madison described the ideal representative as one “called for the most part from pursuits of a private nature and continued in appointment for a short period of office.” They believed that the very essence of fair and responsible legislation relied upon the premise that those making the laws would soon return to their normal lives to live under the laws they created. When one spends decades as a member of the ruling class, he or she will lose sight of what it means to be a regular citizen. The Founders recognized term limits as the best way to avoid this situation and the dangerous legislation that may result from it – and the same holds true today.

In one of the most concise statements supporting the need for term limits in order to preserve American ideals, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton agreed, “The security intended to the general liberty consists in the frequent election and in the rotation of the members of Congress.”

But of course the abuse of power practiced by our federally-elected officials started years ago. What we have today is simply a manifestation of that abuse.

Contango

Re: "Founders recognized term limits,"

Our founders were mostly business or land owners and couldn't afford to be away from their means of livelihood for any great length of time.

H*ll, our reluctant first prez, Geo. Washington damned near went bankrupt.

OSUBuckeye59

Good points. No lobbyists back then and they sure as heck didn't spend over 50% of their time raising funds.

KURTje

Yes bucknut36 .Yes. 100%.