Even with the deep partisan divide, Obama and Congress worked together in the lame-duck session. But pressure on the president from the left and right will grow in the new year.
Pete Souza/White House
President Obama and Congress proved during the lame-duck session that they can work together to resolve big and thorny issues, but that remarkable show of bipartisanship in all likelihood will be short-lived.
The Democrats don’t own the House anymore, and their Senate majority is smaller. In securing the $858 billion tax-cut and unemployment-benefit package, Mr. Obama cashed in his one big bargaining chip with the Republicans: allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to continue even for the wealthiest taxpayers. He also infuriated his liberal base.
Caught between an empowered right and a balky left, Obama appears to be in a bit of a box. But predictions of total gridlock in the 112th Congress may be premature. In fact, analysts say, Obama and the Republicans both need to accomplish two things: show they can govern while also drawing lines in the sand. So over time, expect a combination of collaboration and conflict. Obama can also avoid Congress altogether, changing policy by executive order and using the bully pulpit to try to shape public opinion.
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