The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 5, 2013

The summer question: Can Washington govern?


Republicans staunchly oppose any new taxes as part of a budget agreement. That was made clear again Friday morning, when Boehner dismissed the president's forthcoming budget because it includes new taxes. Boehner's statement was neither a surprise nor likely the last word on this. Obama's audience for now is not the House but the Senate, where bipartisan discussions about the budget continue.

Both the president and congressional Republicans have incentives to make the most of the time between now and the August recess to turn hopeful words into productive results. There may be few better opportunities for the rest of Obama's presidency than now.

The president knows he has limited time to produce results on big issues before the 2014 elections and eventual lame duck status get in the way of serious bargaining. Republicans, with their approval ratings still dreadfully low and having lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections, have more than enough reasons to show they are more than the party of "no."

However, the prospects for a flurry of legislative deal-making between now and the summer recess remain questionable. Obama's gun-control package has run into stiff opposition, despite public support for many of the measures he has advocated. Guns were not part of his second-term agenda until the tragedy of Newtown, Conn. Obama gambled that he could take advantage of the moment. He had no choice but to move as swiftly as possible, but he may have to settle for far less than he hoped.

Immigration is another matter. Nowhere do Republicans have greater self-interest to enact legislation than on immigration. The party's deficit with Hispanic voters, which was reinforced by Mitt Romney's dismal performance last November, has prompted many Republican leaders to embrace a path to citizenship or legal status as part of comprehensive reform.

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