On Obama's agenda: maintain momentum and parry GOP jabs at 'ObamaCare'
Obama achieved several legislative victories just before going on vacation. But with a GOP-led House vowing to target 'ObamaCare' and government spending, difficult battles await.
President Obama had the same spring in his step when he stepped off Air Force One Tuesday that he had when he left before Christmas. His Gallup job approval has just reached 50 percent for the first time in eight months, following a burst of legislative victories in the waning moments of the last Congress.Skip to next paragraph
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But it’s a new year, and a new day, in Washington. Divided government is back, with Republicans taking charge of the House Wednesday. Can Mr. Obama, fresh from his Hawaiian vacation, maintain his momentum?
On the face of it, the president will have difficulty. Suddenly, he must play defense. The Republicans are gunning to repeal health-care reform, Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, with a House vote scheduled for Jan. 12. The still-Democratic-controlled Senate won’t pass it, and Obama wouldn’t sign it anyway, but the symbolic import of the House’s expected passage of repeal is lost on no one. The challenge for Obama and his fellow Democrats will be to win a message war with the Republicans, highlighting elements of health-care reform that are popular even as the overall law remains unpopular.
Obama also faces pressure from the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, who plans to investigate what he calls the “corruption” of the Obama administration. His top targets include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, WikiLeaks, and the Food and Drug Administration. And he has been highly critical of Attorney General Eric Holder.
There will be politics
The president took the high road Monday night when asked by reporters aboard Air Force One if he expects a chilly reception from Republicans, particularly on health care, upon his return to Washington.
“I think that there’s going to be politics; that’s what happens in Washington,” Obama said in a rare visit to the press cabin on his official plane. “They are going to play to their base for a certain period of time. But I’m pretty confident that they’re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people and that we are creating a competitive economy for the 21st century – not just for this generation but for the next one.
“And so my expectation, my hope is that [incoming House Speaker] John Boehner and [Senate minority leader] Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012,” the president continued. “And that our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery. We started making good progress on that during the lame-duck [Congress], and I expect to build on that progress when I get back.”
Republicans say that killing “ObamaCare” is precisely in line with the goal of job creation and economic recovery.