Politics
June 15, 2013
Can Congress and the president compromise?

Legislation on issues such as immigration, gun control, taxes and deficit reduction remains stalled on Capitol Hill because of deep ideological differences between congressional Republicans and the Democratic Obama administration. Hopes that lawmakers and Obama could reach a compromise on some issues grew dimmer this spring amid a series of controversies that engulfed the White House: a 2012 terrorist attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya; the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of requests for tax exempt status by conservative political groups; a Justice Department secret subpoena of reporters’ phone records, and disclosure of a secret electronic surveillance program run by the National Security Agency. The 112th Congress, which adjourned in January, enacted the fewest laws in modern history, and the current Congress failed to reach a budget deal to avoid across-the-board spending cuts.

President Obama responds on May 15, 2013, to charges that the
            Internal Revenue Service focused extra scrutiny on conservative political groups seeking
            tax-exempt status. (Getty Images/Olivier Douliery)   President Obama responds on May 15, 2013, to charges that the Internal Revenue Service focused extra scrutiny on conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status. The White House has denied that Obama was involved in the IRS actions. (Getty Images/Olivier Douliery)

This is not the most fruitful time for new laws in Washington. The Congress that adjourned in January was among the least productive in American history. Now, serious collaboration between Congress and President Obama looks, if anything, even less likely.

Progress on legislation to revitalize the economy, the issue that dominated discussion throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, has nearly stalled in Washington, with neither party able to make a convincing case for its policies. Issues that were prominent early in 2013 have either fallen flat — as occurred with gun control — or have been slow to gain traction, as was the case with immigration reform until recently.

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