Updated at 6:12 a.m. on October 25.
President Obama believes Democrats and Republicans can reach agreement next year on education, infrastructure, and energy legislation. That’s a tall order. The GOP has thus far rebuffed the administration’s efforts in all three areas, although some policymakers and lobbyists say consensus is possible if the political conditions allow for it.
In an exclusive interview with National Journal, Obama said Democrats need to have “a proper and appropriate sense of humility” about what they can accomplish without Republican support, but he also said Republicans should “roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
Good luck, Mr. President. It’ll be like marriage counseling. Even if both parties can be convinced to show up at the appointment, reconciliation isn’t guaranteed.
On education, Obama first needs to convince tea party Republicans that the federal government should be involved at all. Dozens of Republican House candidates have called for eliminating the Education Department, and at least a few of them could find themselves junior members of the Education and Labor Committee next year. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who is in line to chair the committee if Republicans win control of the House, doesn’t think the Education Department will be axed, but he does want to scale back federal involvement in standards, testing, and curriculum. Many Republicans aren’t fans of the Education Department’s blueprint for K-12 schools released in March.
Obama also needs to woo members in his own party, like Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who have been critical of the No Child Left Behind education standards law for being inflexible and restrictive with teachers and students. “I cannot imagine what the formula is that wins majority support,” said Economic Policy Institute Research Associate Richard Rothstein. “You’ve got the local-control Republicans on the one hand. And then you’ve got the anti-testing Democrats on the other.”
On infrastructure, Republicans wasted no time in trashing Obama’s recent request for $50 billion in up-front money for roads, rails, and runways. They also rejected outright any new tax on the oil industry to pay for the investment. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who would chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee under a Republican-controlled House, considers the $50 billion request a nonstarter, but he is open to negotiating a long-term transportation measure. If Mica is writing that bill, he will attack a few of the administration’s sacred cows -- like economic stimulus funds that haven’t yet been spent -- and seek substantive changes to the current funding mechanism.
On energy, Obama knows a broad energy bill isn’t tenable. Instead, Obama said he wants to pursue renewable energy standards, fuel efficiency in cars, and energy efficiency in buildings. A handful of Republicans support those measures, but it’s unclear whether they will be able to convince their leaders that it’s a good idea to let the White House take a win on energy. Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Republican Conference in the Senate, last year called renewable energy an “unprecedented assault on the American landscape.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., put up a challenge to a bipartisan renewable energy standards bill this fall because he wanted it to include clean coal and nuclear energy.