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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid