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113th Congress: Expect the New Congress to Be As Dysfunctional As the Last

I’m an optimist at heart. However, when thinking about Congress and what 2013 will look like from inside the Capital dome, it’s difficult to maintain that optimism. 

Congress will do some things and will not do others. Here is my guess at what those will be.

Congress Will Do

1) Name buildings and post offices. This is not difficult or controversial. Since passage is normally by unanimous consent it doesn’t take much time.

2) Confirm cabinet appointees. John Kerry will sail through the confirmation process to become the next secretary of state. I believe the president will nominate non-controversial individuals for the other openings. He’s got bigger fights coming up and doesn’t want to waste the energy here.

3) Continue the hyper-partisanship. As much as I hope the No Labels Problem Solvers group can have a positive impact, I do not think the extreme factions in both parties will back off. In the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will remain majority leader and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will remain leader of the minority. While McConnell showed signs of returning to a semblance of bipartisanship the other day during fiscal cliff negotiations, I believe that was due to political necessity and expect him to return to his antagonistic position. In the House, John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) speakership could be in jeopardy. If he does not retain the position, his replacement will most likely come from the far right.  Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should have no problem remaining minority leader. Only constituents demanding compromise, collaboration, and cooperation will change this.

4) Let the government default and shut down. Assuming the House passes the fiscal cliff deal, that is all the cooperation the president will get from Congress on these issues. Unless there is honest consideration of spending cuts, the GOP will not agree to raise the debt limit or to continuing resolutions to keep the government functioning.

5) Allow sequestration to be implemented. Following the fiscal cliff deal, there will be no more give and take from either side. Polls show voters blaming the GOP. The president and Democrats have nothing to lose by digging in their heels.  

6) Talk about gun control and immigration. These are two highly emotional and controversial issues. A dysfunctional Congress will not be able to agree on legislation to address them.

7) Continue to be the biggest threat to our economy. Without positive action and assuming another government shutdown, default, and sequestration, Congress will be the major reason our economy reverts to another recession.

Congress Won’t Do

1) Pass a budget. Congress has not passed a budget in four years. There is nothing to indicate that will happen this year.

2) Pass major revisions to the tax code. Since no agreement will be reached on debt reduction, tax code revisions will not be discussed.

3) Move to the middle. Members of Congress are too scared of the extreme elements of their parties. While those on the extremes are more vocal, they are not the majority. Members of Congress do not recognize this.

4) Pressure Israel to negotiate. While the president and outgoing secretary of state Clinton have been direct with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, most members of Congress do not agree with this approach. If Netanyahu is re-elected this month, he will most likely do so with a more conservative coalition.

5) Ease or lift sanctions on Cuba, Iran, or Syria. Congress does not have the desire to pull back U.S. intervention around the world. In spite of economic implications, if the president commits troops, I do not see Congress reversing precedence and implementing the War Powers Act.

6) Pass more bills than the 112th Congress. The session of Congress that is ending has been the least productive since records have been kept. I believe the new congress will equal if not break this record.

7) Accept blame. The members of Congress will continue to blame each other, the opposing party, and the president. Accepting that each, individually, is responsible for their own actions and decisions is a foreign idea.

These are my predictions. As a perpetual optimist, I hope I am wrong on every one of them.

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