The 2012 election ended as a political status quo antebellum. With the Democrats retaining the Senate and the White House and Republicans holding onto the House of Representatives, 2013 promises to be a year filled with as much political gridlock as the nation experienced in 2012.
With that in mind, there are three issues that the Republicans in Congress should tread lightly with in 2013 in order to position the party for future gains in 2014 and beyond.
1. The debt ceiling
As Congress struggled with the “fiscal cliff” issue, no group took a harder hit to their popularity than House Republicans. Polls consistently showed that most Americans blamed House Republicans for the ongoing debacle.
Soon, Congress will turn its attention to the much more pressing issue of raising the debt ceiling … again. Congressional GOPers can’t afford to lose support on this issue. Speaker Boehner can’t walk away from another deal, like he did the last time around, and expect to gain politically from the move. Republicans should move quickly and propose a plan on their own to bring down the nation’s deficit and reform the entitlement systems before the White House does. This will put President Obama on defense and make the Democrats look like the ones who are dragging their feet at the peril of the nation’s economy and fiscal future.
To use an old football idiom: The best defense is a good offense.
2. Immigration reform
President Obama recently stated that immigration reform is one of his top priorities for the second term. Last election, Republicans got blanked by Latino voters (especially non-Cuban Latino voters) as Romney won only 27% of the Latino vote. Republicans have to poll significantly better than that if they want a realistic shot at winning the modern American electorate. The party can’t afford to debauch the issue by making its members seem anti-immigration, or worse yet, anti-Latino.
Fortunately, Republicans already have an ace in the hole, as Florida Senator Marco Rubio has recently proposed his own immigration reform package. Republicans don’t have to necessarily abdicate their core principles on the issue, but they can’t be seen as “the party of no” on the issue. They need to work with the president on the issue, and be willing to meet the president halfway in order to improve their standing with the nation’s fastest growing demographic.
3. Hurricane Sandy relief funding
Anyone who thought that mutinies only happen on pirate ships need to look no further than the floor of the House on Thursday. Speaker Boehner received repeated criticisms from both sides of the aisle, even from Representative Peter King (R-NY), one of his closest allies.
All the fuss is a result of Boehner’s refusal to bring a Hurricane Sandy related bill to the floor today. Boehner, perhaps rightly so, feared not having enough votes to pass another spending bill with this Congress. (Thursday was the last day of the 112th Congress; the 113th Congress takes over on Friday.) Or possibly he thought he had the votes but didn’t want another high profile vote exposing just how divided his caucus is in the span of 24 hours. But he certainly lost the public relations battle when New Jersey Governor and fellow GOPer Chris Christie censured Republican leadership for their failure to bring the bill to the floor.
It is in Boehner’s best interest to pass this bill quickly with the new Congress and hopefully put this Republican insurrection behind him.