I sure hope the holidays were restful for our nation’s lawmakers, because the second session of the 111th Congress is shaping up to be a doozy. 

First, we have health care reform – the House and Senate approved their respective bills in the waning days of 2009, and the process wasn’t pretty. Now Congress and the Obama Administration have the unenviable task of hammering out a compromise, which latest sources indicate will not be achieved through a formal conference.  The American people—and C-SPAN—have called on Congress to hold the negotiations in the sunshine. But will that be the case?

Second, lawmakers—particularly those in the majority—are feeling pressure from their core constituencies to deliver on key issues, including the environment (climate change, chemicals management, etc.) and labor (the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act”). Republicans aren’t immune to criticism, either—while many GOP supporters back their congressional leaders’ “just say no” tactics, they also are waiting for real, viable and common-sense alternatives to policies currently being advanced by their political adversaries.

Third, party switches, resignations, and retirements of members from both political parties are ramping up going into the midterm congressional election year. Intraparty squabbles, grassroots organizing of “Tea Party” activists, and general distrust of incumbents could make the 2010 election very interesting. Bernadette Budde, Senior Vice President of Political Analysis for BIPAC, recently said this of the 2010 elections: “At best, it's just migrated from R vs. D to R vs. R and D vs. D.  When this is the public mood, there are two venues in which every incumbent can lose:  primary and general.  And, the number of competitive districts expands.  I'm saying at least a fourth of the House has to be on the lookout for someone out of the blue to take them out of the next Congress.”

And last – but certainly not least (and some might even say most important) – is the jobs issue.  The economy is starting to show signs of life, and those Americans who have been unemployed or underemployed for weeks or months are chomping to get back to work. How will Congress and the Administration handle the jobs issue?  Is there a balance to be achieved between government “pro-growth” policies and the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the private sector?

Welcome to 2010—can we avoid the potential pitfalls and seize the opportunities?


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