They succeeded in passing a food safety bill through the Senate (though it may have to come back for a technical fix), but Senate Republicans served notice Wednesday that they would block consideration of anything else until the funding and tax issues are resolved.
That ought to focus Democratic leaders’ attention on the appropriate priorities, but what then? Is there hope for DREAM, unemployment compensation extension, START and an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell”?
There’s reason to hope for some of it — if time does not run out. Even though it’s cruel and a waste of human potential, DREAM may be doomed because Republicans hate the idea of giving “amnesty” to any illegal immigrants, even if they were brought to the United States as children.
There may be a chance for an alternative immigration bill that would give legal status to about 1 million agricultural workers, but prospects for that aren’t bright.
There’s every reason to allow openly gay service members, now that a Pentagon study has found that 70 percent of military personnel say it would have no effect on unit cohesion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asserted that allowing orderly integration of gays was “a matter of urgency,” preferable to a judicial order to implement it precipitously.
And the prospects for START have improved with the administration’s move to yield to skeptics’ concerns over U.S. missile defenses and the reliability of the nuclear stockpile.
Assuming Republicans and Democrats can come to terms on some issues during the lame duck, what then on the cooperation front?
It’s clear what the public wants. A new Marist College/McClatchy poll shows that 72 percent of voters say that “Republicans should compromise with Democrats and President Obama to get things done.”
That includes 94 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, 49 percent of Republicans and even 45 percent of tea party supporters.
But when asked what they expect to happen, 64 percent of all voters think Republicans will “stand firm on their positions even if it means things don’t get done,” including 69 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents, 55 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of tea party supporters.
My guess, sadly, is that this prediction is correct — and that the 2012 election will be mainly about who’s to blame for the fact that the country’s urgent problems haven’t been solved.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.