Monday, January 6, 2014

Congress Returning To Work Or Not Work?

Congress gets back to work today.  The question is do they have the political courage to accomplish anything with mid-term elections mere months away.  Put another way…will the moderate majority in the Republican Party summon the courage to stand up to the Tea Party minority in order to win at the polls.
There are actually a few important issues that have some measure of support even among the Tea Party faithful:  Immigration reform, extending the unemployment benefits and increasing the minimum wage have the best chance of passing. There are stumbling blocks along the way.  
Democrats have long courted the Hispanic vote.  Republicans, having finally awakened to the fact that complexion of the country is changing, are lusting after the nation’s fastest growing demographic.  Passing a bi-partisan immigration reform bill would go a long way toward proving the party’s sincerity.  But Tea Party members want nothing to do with amnesty or a pathway to citizenship.
Harry Reid announced that the Senate will take a trial vote today on extending the unemployment benefits.  Democrats need to find five Republican votes to avoid a filibuster.  Extending unemployment benefits for ninety days would seem to be the compassionate thing to do.  Tea Party members won’t vote yes unless the extension is paid for…preferably with cuts to other social safety net programs.
Both Democrats and Republicans agree that if you work a full time job you should earn enough to rise about the poverty line.  Tea Party members worry that increasing the minimum wage to $10.00+/hr. will kill small businesses.
There are two warring factions within the Republican caucus; each holding what they believe to be an effective strategy for winning in November.  The moderates in the Party believe the path to victory runs through governing…particularly by compromising on the issues noted above.  The Tea Party believes that the way to win control of the senate and increase the conservative majority in the House is to stay the course…say no to compromise while continuing to excoriate the ACA rollout.  The result of this internal conflict will determine whether or not this do nothing congress will actually do something.
The past five years politically have been all about “Obamacare.”  In this an election year our guess is that the conversation turns toward raising the middle class.
Stay tuned!  Its gonna’ be a show.

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