President Obama concluded 2010 with one of the most active congressional lame duck sessions in history. The President pushed through legislation on tax cuts, civil justice and foreign relations. This seemingly bipartisan success comes to many experts as a surprise just shortly after the midterm elections when Republicans overwhelmingly took power away from the incumbent Democrats.
“We’ve shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together,” Obama stated to the press just before he left on his family vacation to Hawaii. His glory may come to an end in January, however, where bipartisan support may be more difficult to achieve. Already, his latest comments on “pivoting” to focus on job growth and the economy have caused many conservatives to ask why this was not the focus in 2010? He will also have to work on passing a new congressional budget with a larger Republican presence.
Until then, Congress has been released on vacation until after the New Year. Below, is an analysis of several significant pieces of legislation passed before the holidays.
The Senate ratified the START bill 71-26 Wednesday which will reduce United States and Russia’s possession of strategic nuclear warheads. The bill is expected by supporters to strengthen the relationship between the two countries as well as stop other nations such as Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Thirteen Republicans voted for the bill exceeding the three that were needed. One of the biggest surprises among Republicans was when Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Ten) voted in favor of the bill. According to Jason Reagan, Nashville DNC Examiner, this risk to vote against his party was calculated since, “any ill-will toward his “Aye” vote will dissipate before he is up for re-election.”
Wednesday morning the President signed the legislation repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that was put in place during the Clinton Presidency. The policy prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women from serving openly in the U.S. military.
The President was asked his view on gay marriage by a reporter at a news conference later that day. The President, who has previously voted in favor of allowing gay men and women the right to get married, gave a more cautious response when he said, “My attitudes are evolving on this. I have always firmly believed in having a robust civil union that provides the rights and benefits under the law that marriage does. I’ve wrestled with the fact that marriage traditionally has had a different connotation. But I also have a lot of very close friends who are married gay or lesbian couples.”
Joe Newby, Spokane Conservative Examiner, asserted in an article that President Obama has probably not decided on his stance regarding gay marriage because, “he doesn’t know how it will affect him, or his party, politically in the 2012 elections.”
President Obama signed the tax cut bill last Friday in front of the press and top White House lawmakers. This piece of legislation marks one of the biggest collaborations between Democrats and Republicans during his presidency so far.
The new bill will extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years. Although Democrats are worried that this will be a stepping stone to a permanent implementation of the tax cuts, President Obama has stated that this is the perfect timeline to come up with a tax reform plan by 2012.
One of the big issues Democrats argued against on the bill was with the estate taxes. The new bill will allow for the first five million of an individual’s inheritance to be given tax free to his or her heirs with an additional five million to the spouse. Conservatives, on the other hand, were upset that the Bush tax cuts have not been extended indefinitely and that job benefits for the unemployed has been extended for up to 90 weeks.
“Economists on both sides of the aisle are projecting that the tax agreement will increase growth and reduce unemployment,” said Political Buzz Examiner Jacob Schumacker in a positive prediction of how the tax cuts will do in the New Year.