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Obama Agenda Faces Stiff Opposition in 2011

President Barack Obama (file photo)
President Barack Obama (file photo)

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Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama made progress on an ambitious agenda in 2010. But a larger and stronger contingent of Republicans in Congress will present much stiffer opposition in 2011.  

President Obama scored a number of legislative victories in 2010.

He signed into law tougher regulation of U.S. financial institutions, stronger security along the border with Mexico, and one of his top priorities of the year: sweeping reform of the way Americans pay for health care.


But as the nation's economy stagnated, so did the president's approval ratings.

And in November, voters handed opposition Republicans control of the House of Representatives, and sent Obama a message.

As a result, many analysts agree that the president will have a difficult time getting legislation passed in 2011. "And the big question the people are wondering is, 'Are we going to have two years of gridlock, or are we going to have two years of bipartisan accomplishment?,'" said Democratic Party strategist Mark Penn.

Democrats and Republicans differ about the meaning of November's election results.  

President Obama sees it as a call for the two parties to work together. "The American people did not vote for gridlock.  They didn't vote for unyielding partisanship. They're demanding cooperation and they're demanding progress," he said.

But conservative commentator Amy Holmes says the election results were a rejection of Mr. Obama's programs. "This was the biggest sweep since 1938, and voters have said that they do not want what they consider this left-wing, liberal, big-government agenda," she said.

President Obama faces a tough battle in 2011 to preserve his signature accomplishment of 2010, passage of health care reform.

Republicans want to overturn the law. And their new majority in the House, and larger minority in the Senate, could hamper the president's initiatives on climate change and immigration reform.  

"Right now I think the president has got to do two key things: move to the center, focus on the economy," said Penn

Conservative commentator Amy Holmes also says the president should move to the political center. "I think in the next two years, if President Obama does move to the center, if he does triangulate, much like Bill Clinton did, and pursue policies where there is common ground with Republicans, he can get small things done," she said.

One unannounced priority is getting the president's re-election campaign off to a successful start.

Penn helped President Bill Clinton overcome big midterm election losses in 1994 and win re-election two years later. He says Mr. Obama can do the same in 2012. "So if he could get unemployment down, if he moves to the center, he has a really solid base of supporters. A lot of people in the country like him and they want him to succeed," Penn said.

Penn, Holmes and many other political analysts agree that in politics, two years is a lifetime.

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