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Politics and the Legislative Agenda
 

   2/15/2010
 

SHRM members – like many other Americans – are asking: “What’s Congress going to do next?”  “Will Health Care Reform pass?”  “Is a bipartisan jobs bill possible this year?”

 
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It’s been an unusually cold winter in Washington – meteorologically and politically.  Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked on most major issues, and recent opinion polls show the public is assigning blame to both political parties for inaction.

However, some events will occur in the coming weeks that could tell us if a thaw is possible in Democrat-Republican relations or if Washington will have eight more months of “winter”  -  right up until the November 2010 elections.

Last week, President Obama hosted the first in a series of monthly meetings with Democratic and Republican leaders, saying he wanted to see a jobs bill passed soon, as well as movement on health care, regulatory reforms for financial institutions, and his proposal to create a fiscal commission to control the nation’s deficit.

“We all understand that there are legitimate and genuine differences between the parties; that despite the political posturing that often paralyzes this town, there are many issues upon which we can and should agree,” Obama said.

Another possible sign of bipartisanship?  President Obama has invited Democrats and Republicans to join him in a televised discussion on health care reform on February 25.  (See related article in this newsletter on Health Care.) 

And perhaps the most promising news?  Lawmakers in both political parties want to pass a job creation bill as soon as possible.  Democrats and Republicans have different proposals, but some discussions have been underway.  (See related article in this newsletter on Employment Bill.)

One potential obstacle to bipartisan compromise on almost any issue is the 2010 congressional elections.  Why?  Because vulnerable Democrats don’t want to be perceived as capitulating to their Republican opponents on issues that are important to their base of support, while Republicans are reluctant to give President Obama any legislative victories on which Democrats can campaign in November. 

Outlook: 

Congress is in recess until February 22 for the Presidents’ Day holiday.  The end of February and the month of March are times for HR’s issues. 

Depending upon how Congressional leaders act – or don’t act – on jobs legislation and a health care compromise in the coming weeks, we’ll have a good idea which issues are likely to see progress during the remainder of 2010 … and which ones will remain dormant until 2011 or beyond.  Stay tuned.

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The next issue of HR Issues Update will be published on Friday, February 26, 2010.
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