On Jan. 20, President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address for the year of 2014, and most notably, he called 2015 a ‘year of action’. Much of what the President suggested should be applauded, and the promise of action is encouraging, but it is unclear just what action means. With Congress now controlled by Republicans who are dead-set on pushing their agendas forward, the ‘year of action’ America has been promised could easily turn into another year of deadlock.
For years, America has seen inaction in Congress as House Republicans have blocked bills and the Senate Democrats have tried to hammer through filibusters and revotes to reach their goals. Most notably, the inability of both houses to cooperate on proposed budget plans led to a brief government shutdown in 2013. Behind the blatant stalling in Congress, however, the President also seemed to be holding back, failing to work with a Democrat majority in Congress in his first two years and avoiding decisive action on many controversial issues.
Obama is finally making strides, taking executive action on immigration and reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba. Given his recent vitality in office, the year of action seems like a real possibility.
However, the problems between the houses of the previous Congress have been relieved only to form problems between entire branches of the government. With a new Republican majority in both the House and Senate, it seems clear that headbutting over policy will occur on a much larger scale. The Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union only further validated the rocky road ahead, making it clear that the new Republican Congress is intent on moving forward with its own agenda. With the budget for the Department of Homeland Security currently under debate, Congress and the President should be clashing before the end of the month over their immigration policies.
If both branches continue to move forward with their own agendas, there will be no relief from the stalling that has plagued the Government for years. As good as a year of action sounds, it could well be the worst thing both sides can do. What the country needs now is a year of cooperation.
Both the President and the incoming Congress have made it clear that they intend to get things done within their own branch, but if either side wishes to continue beyond drafts and theories they will have to reach across not only the aisles of Congress, but also the streets between the House of Representatives and the White House.
Neither side will allow the other to overstep its bounds, with Obama threatening with vetoes and Republicans threatening with overrides and impeachment. While both branches will no doubt be able to put out their policies, no matter how radical, it will be easier than ever for the other side to shoot them down.
Redrafting, revoting and repeating is no way to get things done if you can get anything at all done that way. In order to minimize conflict between branches and parties, both sides ought to be willing to review their policies together before they reach the voting floor, and not after they have been sent back to either.