Every year, January marks a number of important events: the beginning of the new year, the launch of the NFL playoffs and the start of Mailorder Gardening Month.
Yes, it’s true — look it up.
But beyond America’s deep interest in New Year’s resolutions, football and foliage, January also marks another important date.
The 112th Congress was officially sworn in on Jan. 5, and Republicans face a defining choice — either work with President Barack Obama on major policy issues or obstruct his agenda for the next two years.
Perhaps it’s the doe-eyed idealist in me, but I hope Republicans will choose the former.
After the past two years of Republican rhetoric, it seems difficult to conclude Congress will be more interested in policy than politics in 2011. At every major turning point, the Republicans have made a concerted effort to oppose the president, most recently by unanimously voting for the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”
Even after the midterm elections, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told National Journal that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not exactly the tone one sets when gearing up for a bipartisan love fest.
And yet, the final month of the 111th Congress was one of the most productive and bipartisan lame-duck sessions in decades. Thirteen Republicans broke with party leadership to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, and both the 9/11 First Responders Bill and a food safety law — thought to be dead in the Senate — came back to life in the final week before Congress adjourned.
As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested, the bipartisan tone of the lame-duck session might foreshadow a more bipartisan Congress in 2011.
Could Republicans and Democrats find issues they could work together on? Absolutely.
America faces no shortage of problems beyond the lagging economy. Our immigration system is broken, American schools are still inadequate and No Child Left Behind is anything but a perfect system.
Both of these issues — immigration and education — do not cut neatly across partisan lines. After all, it was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who spearheaded the comprehensive immigration reform bill back in 2007.
Obama has already signaled that he will make both issues a priority in the next session of Congress, including the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act which failed to get through the Senate in the lame-duck session.
And now that Republicans have a majority in the House and more seats in the Senate, they will share accountability for governing. Americans want a president who gets things done, but they will blame incumbents on both sides of the aisle if the next Congress fails to accomplish anything.
So, Republicans face a choice.
On the one hand, they could do what they did with the Bush tax-cuts bill — compromise with the White House, agree to pass elements both sides are unhappy with and accomplish something.
On the other hand, Republicans could pass hard-line, uncompromising legislation in the House that will never make it through the Senate or past the president and hope the country will throw more Democrats out in 2012.
Given the number of seats Republicans won in the last election this might not be a bad strategy, but it is hardly what’s best for the country. Neither our immigration system nor our education system will be fixed by another election alone.
I expect the wide field of Republican candidates running for president in 2012 to oppose Obama on essentially everything, but I expect more from the rest of Congress.
Let’s just hope that Congress can be responsible and govern for a while — at least until 2012 rolls around.
Evan Medina is a College senior and South Florida native who reported on politics for the DP in the fall. His e-mail address is medina@theDP.com. Peace Not Politics appears every other Tuesday.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.