As the turmoil from the shootings in Tucson, Az. slowly winds down, the public eye returns to Washington to see which new direction the political discourse will take. With President Obama’s State of the Union address announced this week, he has set his course and vision for the next year.
Realistically, the Republicans will have other plans. Since they now control the House with a sizeable majority, bipartisanship will have to be the nature of the game if Obama wishes to enact anything of substance in domestic policy.
This will limit his options considerably on several key platforms for which the previous Congress pushed, with healthcare being the paramount subject for debate.
As Majority Speaker John Boehner pronounced, Republican plans include a massive overhaul of “Obamacare,” and they are not about to compromise on the issue that just got most of their newest members elected in the first place.
Increased spending in the economic sector is also likely to be blocked by most Republican efforts, as it runs against their agenda to reform and reduce spending. Whereas earlier bailouts and stimulus bills were seen as necessary evils, any new initiatives to increase spending will be blocked by the House Republicans.
Nevertheless, as the last few weeks of the previous Congress showed in December, compromise is possible in some areas. The shootings in Tucson have also led to the reevaluation of partisan tensions.
For example, both parties have grudgingly acknowledged that the budget deficit is an extraordinary problem that will have massive consequences on the socioeconomic future of the U.S. at its continued rate.
Both parties have pledged to cut the deficit. While their methods will undoubtedly be different, compromise on this issue is still closer than on any other.
In the complicated state of mixed government, it is possible to get either a spirit of bipartisan compromise where both sides actually work together or to get a terrible case of gridlock in government.
With projections for the economy to turn around slowly in 2011, it would be more effective for President Obama to focus on working with the Republicans to help trim the deficit.
It will not be easy, as Democrats will bemoan the cutting of social services and the Republicans will wail about raising any taxes, but hopefully they will realize that neither party can get it entirely their way. There is room for maneuvering in cutting some social service and military budgets, but it will take great political skill and courage on both sides to actually make something worthwhile happen.
While that sounds like empty words, there will be rewards in the near future for those who prove themselves worthy. Remember that the election season is less than two years away, and whoever performs well now may very well be on an election ticket tomorrow.