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Il Fatto Quotidiano, Italy

Obama Won –
What Will House Republicans Do?

By Fabrizio Tonello

Translated By Joanna Hamer

26 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Italy - Il Fatto Quotidiano - Original Article (Italian)

Obama won, but now he has to govern – and at the moment his most important problem is to understand what the attitude of the Republican House majority will be. GOP members can either choose limited collaboration with the president, or focus on systematic obstruction as they have done since 2008.

The first test will be the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year, i.e. the simultaneous rise in tax rates for all and dramatic reduction in public spending. All eyes are on the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who in 2011 seemed to favor an agreement with Obama in which the Democrats would accept spending cuts (including sacrosanct Medicare) in exchange for the promise of future tax increases. Although the conditions seemed favorable (80 percent of the savings would come from spending cuts, whereas only 20 percent would come from tax hikes), House Republicans refused, and the problem was postponed until December 31 of this year.

Although it’s possible that an arrangement to avoid the fiscal cliff may be reached in the coming weeks, over the next four years it’s still probable that the Republicans will continue down the path of systematic obstruction that they have followed so far, particularly in regard to taxes. This is for two reasons: the constitutional system of the United States recognizes opposition over compromise, and does so especially if polarization arises from society and not from politicians.

The system, designed in 1787, was principally preoccupied with avoiding concentrations of power and was carefully designed to distribute governmental authority between various actors, making it impossible to act without an agreement between several parties. Among other things, the House, president and Senate have different term lengths and there are very few political actions that one can accomplish without the consent and collaboration of the other two. The founding fathers thought that between gentlemen one could (and should) act “for the good of the country.” But the strength of the blackmail enacted by those who refuse to budge an inch from their positions has become clear in the past four years, frustrating innumerable presidential initiatives, starting with the closing of Guantanamo.

In the last four years, the Republicans have successfully used filibustering in the Senate and negotiations on the debt ceiling in the House to paralyze the Obama administration. Their purpose was not, in reality, to obtain specific concessions from the president, but rather to block legislative actions in order to be able to accuse Obama of “not achieving anything” and so prevent his re-election. Given the failure of this electoral strategy, today it’s being said that the party should adopt a more conciliatory position, in particular on immigration, which could possibly lead to reform. This is important because 70 percent of Latinos voted for Obama in the presidential election and the Republicans know that they need to reconcile with this portion of the electorate. On every other subject, polarization remains; it’s easy to predict that the legislative results of Obama’s second term are likely to be modest.



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