Back to Work?

Back to Work?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Congress returns this week from another district work period. During every election year cycle Congress does increase its time back home –campaigning, fund-raising, etc.—this year has demonstrated two outrageous phenomena. First, Members of both the House and Senate appear to have been out of town more than they have been in Washington and as we approach the fall mid-term elections, their absence is will only increase. Second, Congress has a full agenda to address including problems like climate control, immigration reform, and energy, for starters; yet there is barely modicum of interest expressed by Members to move anything along. Members only give lip service to doing the “peoples’ business.

As long as the Republicans are focused on making sure that White House scores no legislative points other than Obamacare– upon which they hope to roast the Democrats in November—nothing will move in either chamber.  The Republicans look at the numbers and are confident that they will wrest control of the Senate in November. The Republican strategy is clearly directed at avoiding giving the President any legislative victories between now and the fall regardless of how necessary it might be. No movement on any significant bills in the House and obstruction of all legislative efforts is the mantra in the Senate.

The Democrats may well want to proceed on an array of matters but they too have a political scheme which must work if they hope to prevent losing control of the Senate. It requires them to hope that by the fall, Obamacare can be seen as a plus for the President’s record, so that Democrats can run with it in their sails and not into its wind. Second, the economy must continue to move, albeit perhaps slowly, in the current direction so that Dems do not have to explain the economic crisis of the last years all over again. Finally, and most critically and most difficult, the Democrats will need to have the most successful Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign every seen in an off-year election. Given the absence of Obama on the ballot and the traditional drop-off in voting in off-year elections, getting the Obama supporters–young, Latinos, Blacks, and women–to vote in record numbers in Senate races is a huge challenge. This is without having to deal with the enormous fund-raising challenge that Republicans present given the anti-Obamacare and pro-Tea-Party forces ginning up their big givers.  

Perhaps the truly saddest part of this situation is that one has a sense that no one on Capitol Hill is really interested in governing. 

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