Daunting tasks load Obama second term agenda
By Zenitha Prince
With a number of big-ticket items still on his legislative to-do list, President Obama has little time to rest on the laurels of his victory in the election.
According to research, the president fulfilled 37 percent of his campaign promises. Some dispute that, saying the president did a lot of heavy lifting in his first term—health care, Wall Street reform, the stimulus—and he would have accomplished more if Republicans had not blocked him at every turn.
But with a mandate from the American people spurring Republican cooperation, Obama's chances of success may be improved now, political analysts said.
"I think there are one or two things he might be able to accomplish just because the situation demands it," said San Francisco State University political science professor Robert Smith.
The first priority on the president's agenda is meeting the deadline to stop a combination of tax hikes and mandatory spending cuts, the budget and the deficit. In an October interview with the , the president expressed confidence that the so-called fiscal cliff would act as a "forcing mechanism" to guarantee GOP cooperation on the issue.
"We're going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business," Obama said in the interview.
In the wake of their disappointing election showing, Republican leaders have signaled their willingness to compromise on the debt-cutting deal and to engage in more bipartisan problem-solving with the White House.
"Mr. President, the Republican majority here in the House stands ready to work with you to do what's best for our country...That's the will of the people, and we will answer to them," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Nov. 7.
Some political analysts question the depth of that commitment, however. "I think there will be a brief honeymoon when Republicans will work with the president. But I expect them to resume that pattern of obstruction because they don't like him...They don't like what he stands for," Smith said. "And there will be a measure of bitterness because they did not accomplish what they set out to do: make him a one-term president."
During that "honeymoon," the Obama administration will likely champion and achieve some measure of immigration reform in 2013. But Smith said he doubts President Obama will be as responsive to Black concerns such as chronic unemployment.
"I think he is still afraid of that race question and of marring his legacy by appearing to favor Blacks," Smith said.
Some Black leaders disagree, saying they expect the president to continue to be committed to Black agenda items such as jobs and criminal justice reform, issues they will be discussing with Obama on Nov. 16.
"Looking back at the first term, we have every indication to believe our issues are included in the array of initiatives on this administration's agenda," said Hilary Shelton, the NAACP's senior vice president for policy and advocacy.
Other unfinished business includes revisiting foreclosure and mortgage reform and corporate tax reform.
Smith predicts President Obama will likely take a different approach in trying to achieve these goals.
"He's going to try to go beyond Beltway negotiations," Smith said. "He's learned his lesson that you can't negotiate with people who don't want to negotiate. He's going to use his re-election to take issues directly to the people."
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