Meet the new Congress; same as the old Congress.
A few faces might be new; a few seats have been shuffled. Nebraska will send Republican Deb Fischer to replace Democrat Ben Nelson in the United States Senate.
But the power structure in place prior to the elections remains in place.
Democrats control the Senate. Republicans control the House. A Democrat remains in the White House. Just as before.
The issues remain the same, too.
Congress postponed much, or, as in the phrase repeatedly used by Sen. Nelson, Congress kicked the can down the road. The can rests on the road, in place for the lame-duck session of Congress.
The most pressing issue awaiting Congress is whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and whether to head off $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts, divided evenly between domestic and defense programs. Congress refused to address the issue prior to the elections, driving the nation a bit closer to an economic “fiscal cliff”.
Many economists predict that a sudden increase in taxes and decrease in federal spending will send shock waves through the economy, driving the country back into recession.
Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican, says the two parties must find a way to work together.
“So, at the end of the day, if we’re going to move this wonderful nation forward, it’s going to have to be by bi-partisan action,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “Republicans and Democrats are going to have to try to find common ground.”
Johanns calls Tuesday’s results a status quo election. Not only will the two chambers be controlled by different parties, but President Obama will have to deal with the same leaders. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada will likely lead the Senate. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio will remain the Speaker of the House.
The three could not find common ground before the elections.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, also a Republican, says it is up to President Obama to lead on the fiscal issues, something Fortenberry contends hasn’t happened in the past. Fortenberry says he wants to see the president submit a realistic budget that controls spending.
A deep philosophical divide separates the two parties, according to Fortenberry
“Obviously, I bring a certain set of perspectives and views and principles into the work and you must work from those principles, but to simply let all of this stagnate and drift is not doing anyone any good,” Fortenberry tells KLIN.
A lot might be disclosed when Congress re-gathers for the lame-duck session with the fiscal cliff looming. Other issues which Congress could consider would include the Farm Bill, a cyber-security measure and proposals to put the Postal Service on sound financial footing.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]