In an article last week, I reviewed the record of accomplishment, or rather lack of accomplishment, of the congressional session that is ending in a few days. Congress is leaving quite a few issues unresolved, so heading into the New Year, here, in no particular order, are the 10 major issues I believe we will continue to discuss in 2013.
1) The Economy. This is a multi-faceted issue. Will Congress and the president take action on the growing debt? Will tax reform only involve tweaks to the current tax code or will ideas such as the fair tax or flat tax finally get an honest debate? How much risk are Congress and the president willing to take on the economy and job creation when dealing with the debt ceiling and these other issues? Finally, after four years without one, will Congress and the president complete the budget process?
2) Immigration. Will Congress and the president focus on total systemic reform or only target those issues important to the Latino community? Will the debate be about delays in visa processing, the types of visas required and the number of visas available that will best meet the country’s needs, enforcement of current laws, or will it be about getting votes?
3) Gun Control. The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, has focused the nation’s attention on this issue. Will Congress and the president tackle the difficult process of identifying the root cause of gun violence? Will gun control advocates and groups such as the NRA be willing to rationally be part of this discussion or will emotion continue to prevent any real progress?
4) Health Care. Obamacare is here to stay. Those who oppose it need to accept that fact. Will Congress, the president, and the states be willing to resolve how best to implement the various provisions? Will other ideas to improve health care while containing costs be part of the discussion?
5) Partisanship. Can Congress make itself work again? Will the president provide the leadership to bring all sides together?
6) Same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court will set the tone of the debate. Depending on the rulings in two cases due out by June, how will Congress respond?
7) War on drugs. Two states have legalized the use of marijuana and more are considering it. Will the Congress and president be willing to review federal law? Will the costs of the war on drugs be critically analyzed against cost?
8) Voter ID laws. The start of campaigning for the mid-term elections is less than a year away. While this is clearly a state-by-state issue, will Congress and the president try to insert themselves in the debate by proposing federal legislation?
9) Climate change. With weather patterns changing, if storms in 2013 are as devastating or worse than those of 2012, will this be the year a serious national debate on the issue begins?
10) Foreign policy. As the war in Afghanistan winds down, will the president keep our military forces home or will he feel a need to deploy them again? Will Congress have to willingness to enforce the War Powers Act if he does? Will we remain on the same path concerning the Middle East, China, Russia or will Congress and the president feel a need to take a harder line?
I’m certain there are more issues that were not resolved in 2012 that will continue to be discussed in 2013. Whether any of them get resolved is the $64,000 question.