Analysis: U.S. Congress: Tough Year Ahead

Manila Bulletin, December 23, 2013 | Go to article overview

Analysis: U.S. Congress: Tough Year Ahead


Washington, DC, United States Anyone expecting a new era of good feeling to break out on Capitol Hill in the wake of this week's bipartisan budget deal should probably forget about it. That was the clear message from most lawmakers interviewed on Friday as well as from close observers of Congress, after the deal passed through the US House of Representatives on Thursday on its way to the Senate. The budget bill, negotiated by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray, is vague and non-specific, avoiding tough, divisive issues. But Congress' agenda for the next year is full of specifics, including raising the debt ceiling, funding individual government programs, immigration reform and passing a farm bill. "I think next year is tougher," said Nebraska Republican Senator Mike Johanns. "It's an election year. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent trashing people, and it's hard to forget that." The deal was a "one-off," said Norm Ornstein, a scholar of Congress at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It may avoid government shutdowns, assuming it passes the Senate next week as expected, he said. But "I don't see any signs that the fundamentals have changed." That was also the message from the floor of the US Senate, where Republicans, some red-faced with rage, kept berating Democrats on Friday for stripping away their right to block President Barack Obama's judicial nominations using the filibuster, a procedural hurdle. "The whole atmosphere here is totally poisoned, OK," said Senator John McCain when asked as he left the floor if the budget deal changed anything. "There's no cooperation, there's no comity. And it is what it is," notwithstanding the fact that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve the budget bill. "It can't get much worse," he said. That does not bode well for the issues facing Congress as it enters its second half, with all seats in the Republican-led House and a third of those in the Democratic-led Senate up for election next November. …

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