Five Epic Political Battles Ahead for the 113th Congress
(WASHINGTON) -- The government has re-opened, default has been averted and Congress has skipped town. The dust seems to have settled in Washington for the time being — but it won't be very long before it gets kicked up again, as a new round of political battles take shape in the capital. Here's a look at five political battles looming for the remainder of the year and carrying into 2014.
1. Budget Negotiations: The most imminent battle in Congress is the one we just lived through — the fight to fund the government for the 2014 fiscal year. The Reid-McConnell bill funded the government through January 15th and extended the debt ceiling through February 7, which puts the next potential fiscal showdown just three months down the road.
The deal passed earlier this week required the House and Senate to appoint budget negotiators, tasked with coming to an agreement by December 13th (although it should be noted that if they miss that deadline, nothing happens) and top negotiators from both chambers. Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray have already met to begin the discussions. Expectations for these negotiations are low — there is no talk of a grand bargain agreement, just the hope that the two sides will reach a deal to fund the government through the year.
2. Immigration Reform: In a speech on Thursday, President Obama called on Congress to fix the country's "broken" immigration system, arguing that immigration reform could and should "get done by the end of this year." Although reforming the country's immigration system has been a stated priority for both Republicans and Democrats this year, the issue stalled in the House of Representatives earlier this year, and has taken a backseat recently against the backdrop of foreign and domestic crises. The two parties' remain far apart on the issue, and asking for a compromise on immigration reform, and a budget agreement before the end of the year is a very tall order.
3. Affordable Care Act: Republicans may have lost this most recent battle against so-called "Obama care" aka the Affordable Care Act (along with a couple of other battles), but the party is waging a war to which it is clearly very committed. And there may be new ammunition in said war. The rollout of the state and federally run insurance exchanges- a key part of the ACA- has not gone smoothly. The website set up for individuals to register has had a series of technical problems, and a congressional hearing on the rollout of said website has already been set up in the House of Representatives for next week, further proof that this fight is not going away anytime soon.
4. Primary Challenges: The shutdown debacle fired up people across the political spectrum, including the tea party. Tea party-affiliated outside spending groups, including the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, made their opposition to the Reid-McConnell bill known ahead of the vote, and Republicans up for re-election in deep red states who voted for the bill are likely to find themselves on tea party target lists Shortly after the government re-opened, the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Senator Mitch McConnell’s primary challenger in Kentucky, Matt Bevin.
5. Battle for the House of Representatives: The math is not on Democrats side where the battle for control of the House is concerned, despite Republicans appearing to take the brunt of the blame for the shutdown. Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats to win back the majority, and there simply aren't that many swing districts where pick-up opportunities present themselves. Plus, historically midterms tend to favor the party that's not in control in the White House. Nevertheless, Democrats are energized and the public is enraged — a combination likely to fuel big funds and good recruits for the Dems, which will in turn fuel a continued speculation about the possibility.
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