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June 30, 2015

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Congress has run out of fiscal emergencies to blame inaction on

President Barack Obama arrived at the White House in 2009 brandishing a long list of major policy priorities for Congress. But with the notable exceptions of health care and Wall Street reform, most have run into a classic budget block.

A seemingly endless cycle of fiscal cliffs, debt limits, government shutdowns and tax code has forced lawmakers to table discussions about immigration, energy and gun control while they fuss over yanking the country back from the latest ledge of budgetary destruction.

But this fiscal year, only one such hurdle remains — a debt-ceiling deadline of May 18 — and then an entire summer before Congress has to face the music about funding fiscal 2014.

To think what Congress, freed from its customary fiscal shackles, could do with that time.

Or maybe not so much.

“The budget is on hold — but I wouldn’t say it’s solved or anything,” said Eric Herzik, political science professor at UNR. “They could maybe take up something (else). But it has to be something both sides want to talk about.”

In Nevada, political experts aren’t putting too much faith in the breathing room lawmakers afforded themselves, save for in one area: Immigration.

“This creates a policy space for immigration,” said David Damore, political science professor at UNLV. “It’s hard to think that they could do two things. ... If anything’s going to move, it’s going to be immigration.”

Immigration has been on the president’s to-do list since the day he stepped into office. But its potential moment is as much due to a shift in the political climate as the available months on the calendar. Since the 2012 election, Republicans and Democrats, inspired by the surging Latino electorate, have both been pushing for a resolution on immigration reform.

No other issue is as primed for the political spotlight. Gun control will have its turn in the Senate starting this week, but reforms that stand a fighting chance of clearing the full Congress are far short of sweeping. Meanwhile, coming to a compromise on matters such as energy, tax reform and the elusive "grand bargain" will likely require more than the three months of working summer Congress has at its disposal, particularly considering the distraction posed by the electoral calendar.

Midterm elections are coming.

“The Republicans don’t want to necessarily see the Democrats be successful ... though I imagine publicly they would deny it up and down,” said Fred Lokken, professor of political science at Truckee Meadows Community College. “If (the government) can stimulate the economy, and we see resolution of major issues that have been in front of the body politic for so long, why would you vote for a Republican in 2014 or 2016?”

Lokken mused that after 2014, there would be new breathing room to get back to deal-making on big issues.

But then the peak years of Obama’s presidency would be past.

“The most productive period of any president in his second term is his first year,” Lokken said.

That raises the stakes on this summer as one of the last clear windows of opportunity lawmakers have to seal important deals, such as on immigration. But some wonder whether a Congress so used to discord can hop to it and respond to a political moment in a timely manner.

Herzik says he’s “not optimistic” that Congress can realize immigration reform during the coming political oasis, before lawmakers have to dive into budget battles again.

“Yeah, they’ll come together and say, ‘Oh yeah we need to work on this,’ and then at the end ... business as usual,” Herzik said, continuing with his prediction. “That’s the pessimistic view. But it’s warranted until they show they can actually do something.”

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  1. Enjoyed the article, but I disagree with noted political experts who think that some kind of agreement will be reached on immigration.

    I hate to sound all doom and gloom about it, but c'mon, face the reality. One political party, for various asundry reasons, keeps slowing it down.

    Then, when it starts going again, a political aspirer for 2016 Presidency (Rubio), clamors to slow it down yet again. Not for any other reason than to stick his political foot out there and get his face in front of cameras. And he has absolutely no reason at all why he's trying to slow the process down.

    Even though the Senate may get this through, the Tea/Republican Party majority in the House of Representatives are like a howling mob of hungry jackals. They are so dysfunctional, they won't even allow things to come up for a vote, nor are they interested in Democrats participating with them to approve bills anymore.

    On immigration, there are two things preventing any progress in their minds....

    (1) They HATE President Obama. That's what compels them to...inaction. He's for it? They're alluva sudden against it.


    (2) They believe to their very souls that if comprehensive immigration, on any level at all, is permitted, they see only twelve million new Americans. And the Tea/Republicans in the House believe, perhaps mistakenly, that every single one of them will vote against their candidates forever and forever. In their jaundiced view of politics, THIS simply cannot be allowed. Just the thought of this makes them shudder.

    I predict no immigration at all. Not because of anything other than stubborn Tea/Republican my way or the highway tactics.

    That's why it's imperative in the next few elections to crush the entire Tea/Republican Party with the American vote out here. Make their their diagnosis of after the election "post mortem" and performing an "autopsy" come true. The Tea/Republican Party is dead. They are simply inapable of any type of leadership in government any more. Because of their extreme and radical ideology compelling them to even further heights of ultra-rightwing over reaching, they aren't able to govern nor pass any legislation of worth to anyone.

    We vote them all out. By doing this, we will actually end up helping their party recover. Shove out all the ultra-conservatives so the voices of conservative moderation can come back again. Until then? It's not workin'. Because all opportunities they have been afforded to fix themselves have basically been rejected. And this will continue to further heights of mismanagement, incompetency and inaction. The wheels of government have ground to a halt. And it's solely because of the Tea/Republican Party intransigence on not only a few issues, BUT EVERY DAMN THING.

    Crush them with the votes. Right now, it's the one and only thing that will fix a fractured American Government.

  2. The author should have said Sen Harry Reid has run out of excuses. The House has passed several budgets that Reid wouldn't even allow to come up for a vote.

    President Obama has sent budgets from the administration that Reid either wouldn't allow a vote on or made no attempt to create support for.

    Reid has deliberately avoided passing any budget Democrat or Republican for purely political purposes. There is little upside to him for passing a budget but several negative effects of doing so in political terms.

    Never mind that lack of a budget is dividing the country, pitting Americans against each other, hurting Americas financial standing abroad & the US ability to borrow; his actions have cost every American alive taxpayer or not. He has harmed the future of the US, cost taxpayers billions and saddled future generations with a debt so large it will likely never be paid under the current political environment.

    Thanks to Harry playing power politics for personal and party reasons our nation is weaker and more likely to suffer a financial collapse than at any time in US history. The congress is constitutionally bound to pass a budget every year. Horrible Harry has ignored his sworn duty to uphold the constitution and should be impeached.

    Harry Reid outright lies on a regular basis, blames others for his own failures and has no interest in Americas future, only his version of political success. Politics doesn't stop at the waters edge with Harry. Harry is a bum.

  3. Dale , I guess if you're opposed to Medicare as is it, Unchaining Social Security increases from Inflation, Reducing Medicaid (especially for Seniors in Nursing Homes), getting rid of Clean Air, Water and Food Regulations - Just keep watching FOX and bashing Democrats, and who knows , one day you just may get the Right Wing Republican Tea Party Crazies you ask for.

  4. Good to hear Harry Reid didn't let the GOP budgets come up for a vote because they were all written to have the retirees pay for the Iraq war with cut-backs in medical care and social security.

    Even so, the GOP can't wait to lead the Louisiana Light Brigade on a charge into Iran to demolish a non-existent nuclear program. What stops them is that hey haven't yet found a trillion dollar line of credit.

    AARP won't go along with the program, even when promised a 15% cut of the of the Ayatollah's oil fields and China refused to buy anymore Savings Bonds after listening to Romney's speeches about standing up to the Shanghai Navy. Funny how that all works.