News / USA

    Obama Faces Political Challenges Back in Washington

    President Barack Obama returns to Washington on Tuesday after an extended vacation with his family in Hawaii. The president begins the second phase of his presidency, one he has said will focus on the economy and jobs, facing opposition Republicans intent on undoing one of his major legislative victories, as well as foreign policy challenges.

    The rest and relaxation that Mr. Obama was able to enjoy in Hawaii will quickly be replaced by a return to the partisan atmosphere in Washington, as he confronts a changed balance of power with a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

    A new 112th session of Congress gets under way Wednesday.  Whatever momentum Mr. Obama obtained from legislative compromises with Republicans a few weeks ago will be tested as he works to prevent his historic health care reforms being taken apart.

    House Republicans have pledged to begin debating as early as this week a measure proposing to repeal health care reform, with a possible vote by the middle of next week. Democrats have vowed to fight to preserve key provisions.

    Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Congressman Fred Upton, incoming Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, suggested that a vote margin could be sufficient to override a presidential veto. "I don't think we are going to be that far off from having the votes to actually overturn a veto," he said.

    But political analysts say even if a health care repeal measure passes in the Republican-controlled House, it will be largely symbolic.  Legislation would almost certainly die in the Senate where Democrats and Independents will still hold a 53 to 47 majority.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said again on Monday that Republicans will take political risks if they press to overturn popular aspects of the Obama health care reform, such as expanded coverage for children and for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

    President Obama also faces other challenges from House Republicans, led by the incoming House Speaker John Boehner, who have vowed to cut what they call wasteful government spending.

    California Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who will take over chairmanship of a key investigatory panel, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, promises probes on a range of issues involving spending and performance.

    President Obama has said he is not against eliminating government programs that are not working, but would strongly oppose cuts to investment in education and other areas he calls critical to future economic growth.

    In a news conference last month before leaving for vacation, President Obama said he was not "naive" to think there won't be tough fights ahead, but said he hoped for more cooperation from Republicans. "We have shown, in the wake of the November elections, that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together," he said.

    Mr. Obama said he knows there will be battles over spending priorities, and the difficult challenges of bringing down the $1.3-trillion government deficit, and nearly $14-trillion national debt.  Americans, he added, will be better off from a sustained spirit of cooperation, regardless of political positioning for the 2012 presidential election.

    It remains to be seen how the president and Republicans will handle recommendations of a presidential commission on the debt and deficit.  In a response posted on the social media website Twitter on Monday, White House Press Secretary Gibbs said failure to work together to get the U.S. fiscal house in order would "mortgage" the country's economic future.

    The president begins the second half of his term encouraged by U.S. stock market gains, but still frustrated by high unemployment which still hovers around 9.8 percent.   Key public opinion polls just before his return to Washington show his job approval rating hovering at or below 50 percent.

    In coming days and weeks, there is likely to be news about White House staff changes, among them the formal announcement of a replacement for Larry Summers, the outgoing head of the president's economic council.

    Mr. Obama will also be maintaining his focus on key foreign policy issues.  In addition to the war in Afghanistan, the White House is closely watching the upcoming January 9th referendum in southern Sudan.  

    The president is also hoping that Israel and Palestinians can move past roadblocks and disagreements from last year to move Mideast peace efforts forward.  A senior aide, Dennis Ross, is making another trip to the the region this week.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora