Millennium Post

Republicans steal the show

Republicans steal the show
Republicans, whose obstructionist role for six years, made life too tough for President  Obama to push ahead with a liberal inclusive agenda and reshape the economic system, have now gained full control of the Congress, with a decisive majority in the powerful 100-member Senate while reinforcing their dominant strength in the 435-member House of Representatives.

In effect, Mr Obama, who has still two years left in his second term in the White House, should become virtually a lame-duck President. Far from being so, an optimistic President expects, even with a ‘divided government’ in Washington, to record some real accomplishments with bi-partisan accords on issues like immigration, energy and tax reform, wherever possible or through executive actions, if necessary.

Despite the largest economy emerging out of the worst financial crisis in 2008, accompanied by the Great Recession and the slow but steady recovery and lowering of unemployment to below 6 per cent from a double digit, the budget and other gridlocks in the Congress, with Republicans enforcing cuts in expenditure and blocking some of the job-intensive programmes earlier, had generated a mood of despair at the functioning of the Federal Government.

The President said Americans ‘restless and impatient’ had again, as in previous midterms, shown what they wanted was that the people elected to work should get things done. Even if two-thirds of the people had not turned up to vote, he gave credit to Republicans for running good campaigns. He has scheduled meeting with the entire Republican and Democratic leadership at the White House on Nov. 7 ‘to chart a new course forward’.

As immediate priorities, the President will seek from Congress a new Authorization to use Military Force against ISIL, which, though frustrated in some limited areas, continues to expand its control and pose bigger threats to the region. ‘The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support’ he said.

Secondly, the President would seek funding from Congress to ensure that doctors, scientists, and troops have the resources needed to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa. The Congress is also yet to pass the budget for the full fiscal year ending September 2015 after its initial funding for first three months ending December 2014.

Whatever the current mood of voters, President Obama said he was really optimistic about America. His reasons were the turnaround of US economy, stronger than any other’s, the energy boom in America, budget deficits cut by more than half, millions more accessing health insurance, businesses having the strongest balance sheets in decades, young people ‘incredibly talented and gifted’, more of them graduating from high school and going on to college, and more women getting degrees and entering into the workforce.

The President, who leaves next week for visits to China, Myanmar and Australia for APEC, EAS/ASEAN and G20 Summits being held in these countries, said when he travelled to Asia or to Europe, ‘their biggest envy is the incredible homegrown U.S. energy production that is producing jobs and attracting manufacturing, because locating here means you’ve got lower energy costs’  He would be happy to engage Republicans on the booming energy production and on additional ideas on how it could be enhanced.

According to White House, America is closer to energy independence than it had been ever before -- or at least for decades. The United States is importing less foreign oil than it produced, for the first time in a very long time.  America also boasts of a 100-year supply of natural gas that if responsibly tapped, would put it in the strongest position in energy for any industrialized country around the world, these sources said.

Even when things are going good, the President said, he wanted them to do better. ‘And we continue
to be a magnet for the best and brightest from all around the world’, and so he felt privileged to have a chance to be President for the next two years and do some practical, concrete things, as much as possible with Congress or on his own.

For instance, if Republicans push for repeal of President Obama’s signature Healthcare reform of 2010, they had unsuccessfully tried several times in the last three years, he would veto it. And on immigration reform, the President hopes the Republicans would now be more willing to take up the bi-partisan Senate bill and whatever changes they would want to make would have to be acceptable to him.

The GOP scoring the coveted majority to assume full Congressional control in the 2014 midterm was
a foregone conclusion amid discouraging trends for Democrats, who did not rely on their own President, given a sharp decline in his approval rating.  

Republicans gained more than they had expected, six Senate seats to put themselves ahead with 52 reducing Democrats to 43, while there are 2 independents and three more results yet to be declared.
In the House already controlled by them since 2010, Republicans won 243 seats against Democrats’ 175, with 17 results awaited.

The President, in his first term, was able to put through a major stimulus programme for the recession-hit economy and by way of path-breaking reform, he was able to get through with the Health Care law in 2010 despite a negative vote from Republicans. Elected for the second term with an impressive popular vote in November 2012, the President set out to do tax and other reforms but was checkmated by Republicans at every stage. While he remained committed to using his executive power to do whatever is possible to tackle gut issues like immigration and climate change, there may still be limits to whatever he can accomplish till 2016. He took some small steps to increase minimum wage for Federal workers and many states have followed suit.  He hopes to persuade Republicans to help finish the immigration reform at least.

The US ‘pivot’ to Asia will become highly visible in President Obama’s week-long Asian tour. In China, he will attend the APEC Leaders Meeting and APEC CEO Summit in Beijing, followed by a state visit with President Xi Jinping of China.

S Sethuraman

S Sethuraman

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