Obama versus GOP’s Congress? Or also some cooperation?

As 114th Congress takes power what do you expect from the GOP-led Congress towards the White House and vice versa? Basically a permanent conflict and you see some areas where both sides could find a common ground? Read few comments.

United States Capitol. Credit: Andrej Matisak

United States Capitol. Credit: Andrej Matisak

Patrick Griffin, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer, Department of Government, American University

Conventional wisdom suggests that the President and the Republican Leadership will have a lot to fight over, including Obamacare, environmental regs, government spending, etc. The same conventional wisdom suggests that both parties may want to find opportunities to cooperate, the prominent issue of which is trade. I believe there will be sincere attempts from both parties to be successful in this regard. However, since neither side has had much experience, if any , in the last six years cooperating on major policy, I would not assume this will be as easy it is to do as it is to suggest. Republican cooperation on any issue with the President will be difficult. The extreme right in their caucus will resist strongly, even on issues they may otherwise agree. Additionally, there will be liberal democrats that will resist any overtures from the President to cooperate with Republicans that might add to their credibility. He will have to maneuver through that resistance, keeping some democrats while making a good deal with Republicans. Absolutely doable but not easy. If that fails on the obvious issue of Trade, it doesn’t hold much promise for successful cooperation on the other more thorny issues.

Russell Renka, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Southeast Missouri State University

Expect mostly conflict and strife, with a little side helping of cooperation driven by the Republicans’ recognition that they must do something about the awful reputation of Congress now that both houses are in their hands. Their two top leaders are pragmatists, and they recognize that “wedge issues” dividing the Democrats are opportunities to pass legislation that the President can sign. The pipeline is one of those, but I think Obama will veto it just to show that he’s got the red pen with four letters boldly printed on it.

Trade liberalization is another issue that might pass. All presidents basically favor this, as Clinton showed in 1993 by driving the debate in favor of NAFTA (North American free trade) despite the majority of his own party voting against it on the floor.

Don’t expect agreement on immigration. Even if McConnell and Boehner work something out, maverick Senators like Ted Cruz will find a way to undercut that. Cruz doesn’t care a whit about offending his leadership, or that of the House. He is running for a different office in 2016, and does not care about passing legislation with his own name on it.

Jordan Ragusa, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Charleston

Conflict is a certainty in the coming Congress. However, one of the biggest choke points in the legislative process is disagreement between the House and Senate. Like Clinton experienced after losing control of Congress exactly 20 years ago, the coming Congress could enact a few major laws. But don’t expect the legislative floodgates to open; both parties are deeply divided.

Russell Riley, Associate Professor and Chair of the Miller Center of Public Affairs’s Presidential Oral History Program, University of Virginia

I genuinely don’t know what to anticipate. Cooperation will only happen if the two sides both feel that they have something to gain from it. And I don’t know what those issues might be. My best guess is that we will see a protracted period of inaction, with the noise level gradually rising. Most presidents turn to foreign policy and executive action/orders late in the second term, because Congress is unwilling to follow their lead. These unilateral actions have already created great friction with Hill Republicans. I don’t see anything different now. Moreover, given the polarization between the parties’ two bases, as the presidential nomination season approaches there will be great incentives among the major candidates to accentuate differences with the opposition. So basically I think it’s unseasonably quiet now–with fireworks likely soon.


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