Folks in Washington Are Tired Just Thinking About Work
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
It may be hard to believe but despite an enormous number of vital unfinished issues facing the Congress, the House of Representatives only has eight legislative days scheduled for the month of December will be in session only five days when the Senate is also meeting. It is not just the legislation that has piled up in one or both chambers, but rather the fact that the negativity in the climate on Capitol Hill is so depressing. No amount of blame game concerning the Affordable Health Care Act will make the agriculture bill and food stamps bill get passed, or unemployment compensation extended, or doctors’ Medicare reimbursements be continued. It will not facilitate completion of the 2014 budget compromise which was supposed to have been completed on October 1. While Congress will probably avoid another Government shut-down on January 14, it might me a nice surprise for the American people to have it in place before Christmas. While the Senate will confirm Janet Yellin to head the Fed, there may be oratorical bloodletting in the Senate as the new anti-filibuster rule begins to enable Obama’s lower court nominees and Executive appointments to move ahead.
No one is blameless in this ugliness, but the lack of responsible leadership is appalling. The White House wants to get back on track after seeing the President’s polling fall to historical new lows. Obama’s presidency is on the rocks unless he can begin to regain the public’s trust following his mis-conduct of the healthcare.gov fiasco. To do so, however, he needs to energize a disheartened Democratic party and find some Republicans willing to participate with him in governing the nation for the next three years. He needs constructive action and not posturing as the poll numbers will sink even lower for Congress again as well as the President’s.
This comes as the 2014 congressional elections are looming on the horizon. Both congressional parties are struggling with internal debates and conflicts. They must make strategic political decisions while trying to get past the budget, the debt ceiling, and a potential shut-down. If the Senate—as appears probable at this time–opts to ratchet up the Iranian sanctions (even if they would only take effect in six months and with conditions), the President could well have a major foreign policy confrontation on his hands before St. Nicholas arrives bringing holiday cheer.
The question now is what will get done!