Two-thirds of the way through his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Obama paused for a moment to say something that already was on the minds of many viewers: “Most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year.”
Idea after idea, proposal after proposal, Obama laid out an aggressive agenda for reshaping the tax code, encouraging more manufacturing jobs and reworking some of the rules that govern Congress. Leading Republicans dismissed the speech as the highest-profile appearance of the president’s reelection campaign, not serious governing.
President Obama, following up on his annual State of the Union address to Congress, defended the government's role in ensuring fairness and rejected accusations that he is engaging in class warfare as his re-election bid begins. (Jan. 25)
INTERACTIVE: State of the Union breakdown
“It’s pretty clear to me that he hasn’t been involved for the last four months. And unless I see something here in the near future, I have no indications that he actually wants to sit down and work with us,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday morning on Laura Ingraham’s radio show.
Republicans have largely dialed back their expectations for 2012 and are hoping to approve several key pieces of legislation, expecting to then frame other proposals as an alternative vision for voters to judge in the November elections. Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that the only path to legislative deals is if “Republicans will stop listening to the tea party and start listening to the American people.”
The biggest optimist is Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who spent most of last year privately criticizing the White House’s engagement with Republicans. Now, he says the year-end fight over whether to extend a payroll tax holiday has shifted the dynamic in Congress toward deal-making.
“This is a president who has not given up on governing. . . . Don’t underestimate our chances of success,” he told reporters Wednesday.Schumer’s optimism is based largely on the belief that Republicans will find themselves in political quicksand and latch onto any deal Democrats offer, a proposition that Republicans firmly reject.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the proposals that have the best chance of winning approval, some chance of approval and those that will have to wait until next year:
PAYROLL TAX HOLIDAY: House-Senate negotiations are underway on extending this tax break through the end of the year, and both sides are optimistic that a deal can be reached. However, the entire package — which includes extending unemployment benefits and adjusting Medicare payments so that doctors don’t see a drop in fees — would cost $160 billion and the impasse has been over finding the offsetting cuts or revenue increases to make up for those extensions. Still, Republicans are smarting over their bitter infighting from December’s debate on temporary extensions, and most leaders want to find a quick resolution to the matter.
STOCK ACT: That’s the formal name for a bill that would make it illegal for lawmakers to trade stocks based on information from private congressional briefings. Some experts say that this is already illegal, but most agree that it’s a gray area. Obama called for going a step further and prohibiting “any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact,” which is an attempt to bring Congress in line with executive branch rules. This is a tougher sell on Capitol Hill, where the Stock Act is likely to be the fallback legislation in this area. With the public support of Obama, Reid and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the stock bill has hit a trifecta that should guarantee its passage early this year.