Is Obama Now Empowered to Push More of His Agenda?
The president may feel emboldened after debt ceiling victory, but lacks leverage and willing partners for other items on his list.
October 21, 2013 - 3:54 pm
WASHINGTON – Having emerged triumphant from the bitter shutdown/debt ceiling/Obamacare contretemps, President Obama might now expect to be in a strong position to advance his agenda on several fronts.
In a presentation delivered in the glow of victory after the House and Senate agreed to reopen the government’s doors and authorize the Treasury to borrow funds needed to pay the bills, the president mildly admonished his political foes – like the Tea Party Republicans who battled and lost – that “how business is done in this town has to change.”
“And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do — and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.”
Regardless, at first glance it appears “the way business is done in this town” will exhibit little change and Obama will have no more sway with lawmakers than he did before the recent troubles despite his obvious victory. In fact, on some issues, his success may hinder his efforts. Republicans remain sore at the outcome and are exhibiting little interest in lending a helping hand.
Just how Obama intends to achieve those economic goals is unclear. The administration long ago gave up trying to convince a recalcitrant Congress that additional governmental stimulant will boost the economy and create jobs. And while Obama expressed hope that lawmakers will offer a budget that “cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow,” building prosperity is now in the hands of a congressional conference committee appointed to work through those issues.
There are areas of agreement – Obama and Republicans want to reduce the 35 percent business tax considered the world’s highest, tighten some loopholes afforded corporations and consider changes to entitlement programs to save money. But he’ll carry little influence as the GOP seeks other objectives as well.
That doesn’t mean the president is without ambitions as he grows close to entering the final three years of his administration. During that same White House speech he urged the House to address a long-delayed immigration reform measure by the end of the year.
“The Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history; would modernize our legal immigration system; make sure everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities,” Obama said.
And he wants lawmakers to begin anew on a farm bill that got hung up primarily on the issue of food stamps: House Republicans are demanding deep and dramatic cuts while Democrats look to retain the proposed funding levels.
Despite his recent hard-fought victory, Obama doesn’t have the same leverage he did in the government closure/debt ceiling fight to attain immigration and farm legislation to his liking. In fact, ongoing GOP bitterness over the outcome of that debate is likely to further complicate the achievement of those ends.