Despite looming debt ceiling fight, gun control, immigration reform on Obama's agenda
Apparently, the president isn't going to let his agenda get bogged down in fights over the debt ceiling and sequestration that hang over the heads of congressmen the first quarter of the year:
The timeframe is likely to be cheered by Democrats and immigration reform advocates alike, who have privately expressed fears that Obama's second term will be drowned out in seemingly unending showdowns between parties. The just-completed fiscal cliff deal is giving way to a two-month deadline to resolve delayed sequestration cuts, an expiring continuing resolution to fund the government and a debt ceiling that will soon be hit.
With those bitter battles ahead, the possibility of passing other complicated legislation would seem diminished.
"The negative effect of this fiscal cliff fiasco is that every time we become engaged in one of these fights, there's no oxygen for anything else," said a Senate Democratic aide, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly. "It's not like you can be multi-tasking -- with something like this, Congress just comes to a complete standstill."
It remains unclear what type of immigration policies the White House plans to push in January, but turning them into law could be a long process. Aides expect it will take about two months to write a bipartisan bill, then another few months before it goes up for a vote, possibly in June. A bipartisan group of senators are already working on a deal, although they are still in the early stages. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) will likely lead on the Democratic side in the House. While many Republicans have expressed interest in piecemeal reform, it's still unclear which of them plan to join the push.
Lofgren expressed hope that immigration reform would be able to get past partisan gridlock, arguing that the election was seen as something of a mandate for fixing the immigration system and Republicans won't be able to forget their post-election promises to work on a bill. "In the end, immigration reform is going to depend very much on whether Speaker [John] Boehner wants to do it or not," Lofgren said.
Boehner will be in a much weakened position given the temper of the GOP caucus. He may have little to say about immigration reform, or gun control for that matter. For tactical reasons, he may wish to bring one or both of those pieces of legislation to the floor - especially if they would be doomed to go down to defeat. Neither measure would be popular with the voters and a GOP stance against them wouldn't hurt - and might help them - at the polls.