Obama’s Relationship with the New Congress

Do you think President Obama is likely to find this new Congress any more cooperative than the previous one?

Andrew Rudalevige: No. Again, there are going to be some things where the two parties see themselves as having shared interests — the debt, immigration, and I would hope education, perhaps some foreign policy issues. There may be some smaller aspects of the gun agenda that will get support, but nothing very sweeping.

There are a lot of members representing safe seats in Congress who don’t feel that Obama got them elected or can get them unelected. They don’t feel tied to a national vote swing. So the president says, ‘Look 80% of the people want gun control,’ and they say, ‘Well, my people don’t.’ So constituent interests aren’t going to necessarily push them in the direction the president wants. Preferences trump personalities here, and the preferences of the new Congress will be pretty similar to — or even more polarized than — the last one.

Janet Martin: The 113th Congress is not likely to be more cooperative than the 112th Congress. The composition of the House and Senate has not changed sufficiently to provide a working and effective majority for the President in either the House or the Senate. The leadership of Congress is basically the same. And, with the recent reform of term limits on committee chairs, chairs have lost the ability to act from an independent power base, and have also lost some of the expertise in order to compete in negotiations with the executive branch. We have also seen that neither the leadership of the Senate nor the House has the ability to be in firm control of their respective members, making the ability of Congress to speak in one voice most difficult, and expanding the number of players needed at the table to work through negotiations and a compromise.