“At least for the foreseeable future, the second part of the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, sequestration, funding of the government are all going to dominate the landscape and until they resolve those issues, it’s hard to see how they get to anything else,” Gans said. “The political divide is so great right now that it’s very difficult for me to see in the short term how Republicans and Democrats come together on some of these sticky issues. I just think it’s a very toxic atmosphere.”
But, he noted, there’s still lots of lobbying work to do.
In looking for cost savings, a number of members of Congress and business stakeholders have suggested adjustments to entitlement programs, including cuts to Social Security or increased co-payments for Medicare recipients. This, too, promises to be a contentious debate that groups such as AARP won’t shy away from.
AARP’s David Certner said the seniors lobby will strongly oppose any cuts to Social Security as part of a budget deal and will fight off proposals that ask seniors to pay a bigger share of their Medicare costs. “We would like to refocus the debate: How do we actually lower the cost of health care?” he said.
Joel Jankowsky, a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said lobbyists and their clients are also working to get to know new members, as well as those who have just assumed committee or subcommittee chairmanships, such as Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, on the Financial Services panel.
“If you look at where the chairmen have changed, or even ranking members, the history has been that they bring with them their own agenda,” Jankowsky said. “So I think that will drive the list of things to be considered.”
Jankowsky said K Street will also keep its eyes on proposed changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules. Should senators overhaul the parliamentary maneuver, it could make a lobbyist’s job of killing legislation harder but also make it easier to push for passage of bills. Jankowsky said lobbyists don’t plan to weigh in on the debate.
“We would never presume to tell the Senate how to run its business,” he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.