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Game On For K Street: Lobbyists Get Busy Ahead of Lame Duck Game On For K Street: Lobbyists Get Busy Ahead of Lame Duck

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Influence

Game On For K Street: Lobbyists Get Busy Ahead of Lame Duck

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In Washington, the U.S. Capitol dome is silhouetted as the sun rises Monday, Oct. 15, 2012.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

When Democrats took control of Washington four years ago, K Street was throwing money at Capitol Hill Democrats to lure them downtown. Two years later, firms scrambled to land Republicans with ties to the new GOP House leadership.

But the morning after 2012's status quo election, the talent arms race of the past few years was replaced with legislative strategy sessions as firms across Washington raced to help their clients understand the new, yet still familiar, landscape.

"The overwhelmingly high reelection rate of incumbents means Congress can attack the big issue logjam immediately. 2013 promises to be busier, more intense and more bipartisan than any year since 1997, with huge issues such as tax and fiscal reform actually starting to move," said lobbyist Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman, Vogel, Castagnetti. "Our Senate Democrats and House Republicans are already running full-speed."

Indeed, by Wednesday morning lobbying shops all over town were filling their clients' inboxes with post-election analysis.

"We continue to believe that the Six Year Itch election of 2014 will impact the policy negotiations of 2013. House and Senate Republican leaders will do their best to ally with red state Democratic senators up for re-election as negotiating tactic," the Republican lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford wrote in a memo to clients. "Leader Reid will have a tenuous majority from a policy perspective as several Democratic senators are philosophically closer to Republicans than many of their more progressive elected leaders."

The Glover Park Group's Joel Johnson said the coming weeks of closed-door meetings and negotiations among congressional leaders and President Obama over the so-called fiscal cliff makes for a "sort of wild West period until they either get it done or crater it."

In addition to the headline grabbing tax increases and spending cuts that have to be dealt with before year's end, industries and their lobbyists are bracing for an onslaught of major health, environmental, and financial regulations that the Obama Administration bottled up ahead of the elections.

And with Obama in the White House and Democrats controlling the Senate, health care reform's 2014 implementation is unlikely to be derailed by Republicans.

"It's very real now. There's a clear path," Republican health care consultant Bill Pierce said, adding that Obama will have to decide if he wants to help make adjustments to the new law so it runs smoothly. 

And, of course, tweaking the law gives opponents a shot at rolling back provisions they oppose.

And while institutional status quo reins over Washington, Pierce predicted the personal relationships among Democratic and Republican leaders will shift out of necessity. "We can't do four more years of this."

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