New Year, New Congress, Four Dead On Arrival Issues We Can Expect For 2015
A new year, a new Congress — but we shouldn't expect much progress in White House-Republican relations. For the first time since the Bush administration, Republicans have control of both the House and Senate, but it will be much harder to push through conservative legislation this time around. Both the president and congressional Republicans have already taken hardline stances on several key issues, without room for compromise. Despite planned bipartisan leadership meetings, any prospect of issue bargaining is dead on arrival for several policies.
This week, the White House has extended an invitation to Republican leaders to meet the following week. Press secretary Josh Earnest commented: “What you should see this as is a clear piece of evidence from this president that he wants to find common ground with Republicans to make progress on behalf of the American people." Regardless, given recent comments by the president and Republican members of Congress, this is not likely to play out.
President Obama also offered his two cents on how to best collaborate with his colleagues from the Capitol, reports The Hill: “If the ways that we’re approaching the Republicans in Congress isn’t working, I’m going to try different things — whether it’s having a drink with Mitch McConnell or letting John Boehner beat me again at golf.” While Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has even mentioned the possibility of a "bourbon summit."
So what are some of the dead-end issues that might be discussed on the rocks?
The Keystone XL Pipeline is a major interest of Republicans with the House approving the measure on Friday. As confirmed by Earnst, the president will use his veto pen should the legislation, as expected, make it to his desk until a final analysis is made available by the State Department.
In an NPR interview, the president expressed what will be the result of disagreements with congressional Republicans:
I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office ... Now, I suspect, there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out.
So much for a "bourbon summit" in lieu of the veto pen.
Meanwhile, Republicans have not been receptive to the president's executive action on immigration reform. There are plans for a vote on funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which would include stipulations to restrict funds to prevent this executive order from being carried out.
It's possible that more Republicans would be more receptive to immigration reform if it were to be passed through legislation versus executive command, but this hasn't piqued the interest of the president.
Sanctions Against Iran
The United States and Iran have a long and complicated history, but the election of a reformist Iranian president offers the opportunity for renewed engagement. Over the past few months, the president has made efforts to repair relations with Iran by refraining from new sanctions during nuclear negotiations. The president even went far as to tell NPR "never say never" when it comes to re-opening a America embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
Countering the president's efforts, Senate Republicans intend to introduce legislation to further impose crippling economic sanctions as is addressed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in Politico.
You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran. You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be re-imposed at the drop of a hat. You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal.
The Cuban Embargo
December marked the president's efforts to end Cuban isolation by easing trade and travel restrictions, alongside opening an American embassy in Havana. Obama will need the assistance of Congress to formally end the embargo and achieve his goal to normalize relations.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio expressed on NPR how Republicans might block the president's efforts to re-engage the island nation.
We’re going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you’re going to get an ambassador nominated and how you’re going to get an embassy funded.
Personal relationships can be important in the deal-making process — perhaps through a shared passion such as, you know, golf — but only if the parties involved want a deal. As such, none of these meetings will address the serious business and necessary compromises between the White House and Republican leadership as Congress adjourns. Unless the parties engage in compromise or bartering one issue for another, deadlock is likely to ensue for the upcoming congressional session.
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