THE WORD ON THE STREET
The last two elections shook up K Street, with lobbying firms paying obscenely high salaries to Democrats in 2008 after Washington went blue and scrambling to pick up Republican talent after the GOP won the House in 2010. But after Tuesday’s status quo election, lobbyists are forsaking their talent arms race for legislative strategizing about the lame-duck session and beyond.
“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 Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. Indeed, by Wednesday morning, lobbying shops all over town were filling their clients’ in-boxes with postelection analysis.
“There is an emerging consensus that the AMT patch for 2012 is a ‘must-pass’ item because it would affect millions of taxpayers in the very near term,” the lobbying firm Heather Podesta + Partners wrote to clients, referring to the alternative minimum tax. “Some action on postponing or otherwise limiting the January 2013 impact of the sequester is another good bet for lame-duck action.”
The Glover Park Group’s Joel Johnson said that upcoming negotiations between congressional leaders and President Obama over the 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 policymakers must deal 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 still controlling the Senate, Republicans are unlikely to derail health care reform’s 2014 implementation. “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. Of course, fixing the law’s problems gives opponents the opportunity to try to roll back provisions they oppose.
Even though institutional status quo will reign over Washington, Pierce predicted that the personal relationships between Democratic and Republican leaders will shift out of necessity. “We can’t do four more years of this.”
Shut Out The new members of the 113th Congress will come to D.C. for orientation next week and again the week after Thanksgiving. Their days will be filled with the usual fare: the office lottery, ethics primers, and training on how to hire an office staff. But reporters are already grumbling. The new members will be staying in the Capitol Hill Hotel rather than the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, where they have camped out in years past. At 200 C St. SE, the Capitol Hill Hotel is closer, so members can walk rather than shuttle to daily lectures in the Capitol Visitors Center. But it does not have a bar or restaurant for congregating, so any journalist hoping to catch a word with a newbie will have to wait in the cold.
Culture Shock The Republican approach to immigration, as Mitt Romney emphasized this year, has centered on drawing a distinction between legal immigrants (welcome) and illegal immigrants (who should, in Romney’s famous phrase, “self-deport”). What the party may not recognize is how blurred that line is in the Hispanic community. David Bositis, a senior analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says the average size of a white person’s extended family is eight people, but the average size of a Hispanic extended family is 50. So politicians should beware. Tough love may be a tough sell when aunts, uncles, and cousins are involved.
This article appeared in print as "Inside Washington: November 10, 2012."
This article appears in the Nov. 10, 2012, edition of National Journal.