Bleak assessment of the next Congress: more gridlock ahead
10/17/2010 - 08:49
James Besser

Think Washington is gridlocked today? Wait until January, when the new Congress takes over.

Bitterly polarized politics and an environment in which compromise is a four letter word promise even more paralysis when the next Congress convenes and President Obama starts the second half of his term with even more Capitol Hill tsuris.

For a particularly bleak assessment – but probably an accurate one – check out this Washington Post analysis.

“Republicans are poised to make potentially significant gains in both the House and the Senate, but even the most confident among them is predicting that they'll come away with a narrow majority,” Paul Kane writes. “If Democrats maintain power, they, too, will have a slim advantage and will face a revived and emboldened opposition.”

And liberals and conservatives alike will be reacting to angry messages from their core constituencies – meaning that they'll be even less willing to compromise.

What this means for Jewish organization: a whole list of long-deferred domestic priorities will be deferred some more. It means no solutions to the problems faced by key entitlement programs like Medicaid and Medicare, a major concern of Jewish health and social service agencies around the country.  

And it means there's little chance the Democratic administration and a more Republican Congress will come to terms on reducing the huge budget deficit while maintaining key services and doing what needs to be done to stimulate a lagging economy.

I'm looking for the bright spot in this dark picture, but I sure don't see one.

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Don't be so gloomy. There have been many instances where divided government has worked at least passably -- think about the last six years of the Clinton Administration. Each side has to be realistic about its chances to get its way without compromise. A case could certainly be made that the current Administration was rather too aggressive in its approach and didn't take into account that most of the problems the nation faces need a broad consensus, not a bare majority or even barely sixty votes. Or you could say that the Republicans in the Senate overplayed their hand (House Republicans were non-players). The results of the upcoming election will show (in part) who was blamed by the public for (whatever you want to say about) the past two years, and results of 2012 election will show (in part) who will be blamed if gridlock persists.