What’s next in Congress

As citizens of the United States arose from a short nights sleep on the morning after Election Day, none could point to a great deal of change in Washington — the House of Representatives remains in the control of Republicans, Democrats continue to hold the majority in the Senate and Barack Obama secured another four years as President.

After the past two years with split leadership in the House, Senate and White House have
led to historic gridlock, many believe that there will have to be some sort of bipartisanship formed between the House of Representatives and President Obama for positive reform to ensue.

“Divided government is not an impediment to passing a legislative agenda; it just requires compromise,” said St John’s Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Government and Politics Diane Heith. “If the House remains controlled by Republicans unwilling to compromise, passing the presidential agenda will be difficult.”

Even though a Democratic majority rules over the Senate, they will also have to stray away from the current Congressional inclination to combat against opposing party’s principles.

“Compromise is typically easier to achieve in the Senate, as longer terms insulate Senators from payback at the polls for six years,” Heith said. “However, if the same uncompromising ideology exists in the Senate as in the House, it’s difficult to legislate.”

One of the compromises they may have to make concerns immigration reform.
“I think the Republicans in Congress will have to go along with some of his [Obama’s immigration] agendas,” said St. John’s College Democrats advisor Brian Browne. “He might be able to get something done, but he had Democrats in the House and Senate for two years and he didn’t do anything, so I’m not sure if the will is there.”

Republicans in Congress will also face a battle with Obama on the issue of tax reform, a centerpiece of Mitt Romney’s economic plan and an issue that the GOP and Democrats consistently disagree on.

“I don’t know how much reform you’ll see because I don’t know how much movement there will be in Congress,” Browne said.

One of the most significant issues that Congress will have to resolve is the looming fiscal cliff, which, if not solved by the new year, will mark $500 billion in automatic tax hikes.

“I really think that Congress kicked the can down the road and didn’t want to do anything [about the fiscal cliff] until after the election,” Browne said. “So I think now that the dust settles, they’ll have to sit down and compromise and negotiate.”

And the dust of these elections will settle quicker than past ones, with such a big issue looming as the lame-duck period ends.