“[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”
Article 2, Section 3 U.S. Constitution
In his State of the Union Address last year, President Barack Obama addressed Congress for the first time since the 2010 mid-term elections in which Republicans wrested control of the House from Democrats and weakened the Democratic majority in the Senate. Aware that American voters were increasingly fed up with Washington and with an eye on his own reelection prospects in 2012, President Obama indicated that he would pursue an ambitious agenda in 2011. He spoke of “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” He challenged the country to “win the future.” And he reminded the Congress and the American public that as a nation “[w]e do big things.”
That was then. This is now: We as a country may do big things, but politicians didn’t do them in 2011. And they won’t be doing them in the run up to the 2012 elections. The bulk of what they will be able to accomplish prior to the elections may be evident by February 29 — the Wednesday at the stroke of midnight when the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance, and the “doc fix” expire unless extended further. As the parties seek to frame the narrative going into the November elections, they undoubtedly will push legislative proposals designed to appeal to core constituencies without much expectation that they will be enacted into law. In other instances, such as continuing the discussion on comprehensive tax reform, they will establish the parameters by which legislation is likely to move in 2013 or 2014, with potential far-reaching financial consequences for businesses in every sector of the economy, as well as for individual taxpayers. Meanwhile, fierce regulatory battles will continue, as the Administration continues to implement financial services reform, health care reform (the scope of which will depend in part on the Supreme Court), and its environmental agenda. Washington will be busy, but as with last year not much is likely to become law before November.
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