jakke asked: Assuming that Democratic and Republican voting blocs are pretty much firming up (to the extent that there aren't going to be changes to the federal balance of power any time soon) what do you think this means for getting legislation passed and what will that legislation look like?
I’d say immigration reform is definitely going to be on the table. The Obama administration seems determined to pursue it. And Republicans have electoral incentive to play along. The GOP will have a hard time in Florida and the southwest (which is slowly shifting from pure red to purpleish) if they can’t win a bigger share of the Latin@ vote.
But I doubt it will be as comprehensive as the politicians are making it sound at this point. Blanket amnesty is verboten. I’d guess that some sort of pathway to legal residency will be set up for the most sympathetic undocumented immigrants, like people whose parents brought them here without papers and those in the armed forces. Something like the DREAM Act would certainly pass this time around. Such measures would be slightly easier for Republicans to sell to their base.
I’m pretty sure fillibuster reform in the Senate will be on the agenda given recent remarks from Harry Reid. Legislators are very conscious of the fact that Congress’s approval rating is at an all-time low and that the public views it as dysfunctional. Many major bills have been blocked in the past four years or so, which makes them seem like a do-nothing Congress. Not a good image in the midst of a recession.
I assume Republicans will be united against reform since they’re almost exclusively the ones who’ve been abusing the filibuster. But it looks like Reid has enough votes for rule changes come January. If this happens, we will likely see more legislation getting passed.
I’d be surprised if a jobs bill and a housing bill to address foreclosures weren’t introduced by Dems this upcoming term. Congress needs to demonstrate that it’s actually doing something to help Americans who have been hurt by the recession. Republicans, of course, will probably oppose such legislation because shrinking the federal deficit is suddenly very important to them. Whether the Dems will have the necessary votes in the end will depend on what the bills look like.
I bet Obama will introduce some sort of environmental legislation during his final term. I hate to say it, but another Irene or two over the next couple of years (which is likely) would increase the chances of passage. The GOP will have a very hard time continuing to argue that climate change isn’t real to a public that sees houses and piers being swept away by floods on the evening news. Ditto if winters continue to be so temperate and droughts keep affecting crops.
Last thing, which may be bullshit: it’s true that Democrats don’t have a majority in the House, but I think they feel like they gained the support of the public to govern. That psychological edge doesn’t sound like much, but I think it’ll factor into how strongly Democrats will fight for what they want.