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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs