WIRE: Obama Winless in 2nd Term

WIRE: Obama Winless in 2nd Term

(AP) Immigration mired, early Term II wins elude Obama
By JIM KUHNHENN
Associated Press
WASHINGTON
A dramatic tax-raising deal last New Year’s looked like it might be a breakthrough, signaling improved second-term relations between newly re-elected President Barack Obama and a divided Congress. At least that’s what the White House hoped.

But six months later, growing uncertainty over a sweeping immigration overhaul measure has dimmed expectations for a big summertime achievement and left Obama still in search of a marquee legislative accomplishment to mark his second four years.

His advisers now concede that their best shot at changing the immigration system might come in the fall, after lawmakers return from their August recess. But that could be a long shot during a period already crowded with other issues.

During the autumn months, Obama’s administration will be dealing with one of the most challenging aspects of the historic health care overhaul _ signing up millions of Americans for insurance coverage. And if that’s not enough, Obama also will be locked in an unexpected battle over domestic food aid _ while working through budget disputes with Congress as the new fiscal year looms in October and the government approaches its borrowing limit. Then there’s overseas turmoil in Egypt and Syria.

Already shadowing the president are two major letdowns earlier this year _ a gun control measure that Republicans blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate and the failure to avoid automatic spending cuts that further trimmed the government’s budget.


Before his re-election, Obama liked to tell supporters that a second term would “break the fever” with Republicans, arguing that they no longer would need to routinely block his agenda because he wouldn’t be seeking election again. By last month, that optimism was gone.


Republicans maintain that Obama’s initiatives simply go further than they are willing to go. Many refused to support expanded background checks for firearm purchases at gun shows and online. They rejected Obama’s efforts to combine spending cuts with more tax increases. And now, on immigration, many oppose a path to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the United States _ a key provision in the overhaul Obama seeks.

To be sure, the legislative gridlock has occasionally eased. In February, Republican leaders allowed an expansion to the Violence Against Women Act by extending domestic violence protections to gays, lesbians and transsexuals. And Republicans and Democrats are still trying to strike a deal that would lower interest rates on student loans.

But another trouble spot for Obama emerged just recently on what historically has been a guaranteed bipartisan achievement: approval of legislation that includes money for agricultural subsidies and food stamps. The Senate passed a single measure. The House defeated its version. And Republican leaders this week divided that measure into two. Obama, who opposes proposed cuts to food stamps in the House bill, has threatened a veto, signaling the food fight could consume the coming weeks.

White House aides say they’re not surprised by the difficulties Obama faces.



Still, White House aides had argued that a solid bipartisan vote on immigration in the Senate would give the legislation momentum through the House. Two weeks ago, at a news conference in South Africa, Obama called on the House to act before the August recess. “Now is the time,” he declared.

House Republicans ignored him, saying they would not take up the Senate bill and would instead tackle immigration in a piecemeal way. “I’m much more concerned about doing it right than I am in meeting some deadline,” House Speaker John Boehner said.

That decision put a sizable question mark over one of Obama’s biggest second-term priorities.


Some Obama allies fear that failure to win on immigration _ an issue many believed was ripe for change after last year’s elections _ will simply embolden his opponents. Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat, said it “could conceivably wound the president in a way that would make the next three years move very, very slowly and painfully.”

Others are still upbeat.


As significant as the immigration legislation may be, Obama is treading carefully, wary of alienating Republicans. He has faced some pressure to speak out more forcefully and to use the power of his office to give immigration the visibility he has given to past clashes with Congress over taxes and student loans.


While White House aides and advisers believe Republicans will inflict long-lasting political damage on their own party if they continue to block a comprehensive immigration bill, those advisers say Obama is not ready to hit the road and wage a full-throated partisan fight.


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Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

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