Will It Be Politics Over Policy in Congress?

In the final years of the Bush administration, Washington was noted for its lack of substantive action on Capitol Hill. In 2009, many were wishing for a switch back to the previous inaction. In 2010, it’s "are we going to get anything done because we have to get re-elected and we don’t want to make anyone mad?"

Excerpts from a CongressDaily analysis of what’s to come:

House and Senate Democrats plan a 2010 agenda aimed at leaving the second half of the 111th Congress as firmly identified in the public’s mind with economic measures as 2009 was with healthcare reform. In 2010, virtually every bill will be sold as a jobs bill.

That agenda suggests 2010’s legislative output will be far leaner than last year’s, and could once again bode badly for key measures that were shoved aside in the push to pass healthcare legislation.

And if Massachusetts state GOP Sen. Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley, the state’s Democratic attorney general, in a special election today to give Senate Republicans a 41st vote, virtually every key 2010 initiative, including health care, will be endangered in the Senate. Democrats last year regularly needed 60 votes to move legislation, and Republicans might be even less cooperative in an election year.

Despite a continued push by backers, climate change legislation, which the House has passed, and an overhaul of immigration law appear to face long odds of passage, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

"It is going to be a very hard year to do what we have to do to meet the needs of the American people and to maintain the fiscal soundness. And that requires some very tough decisions," House Speaker Pelosi has warned.

Pelosi, echoed by other top House Democrats, said she is determined this year to reduce the deficit, which the CBO says hit $1.4 trillion at the end of FY09 and is projected to hit $1.5 trillion for FY10.

But how to pair these seemingly conflicting goals — passing multi-billion-dollar, job-creating packages with cutting spending and reducing the deficit — must await, in part, the president’s budget, set for release in early February.

Many observers speculate Senate Majority Leader Reid will push an energy bill aimed a creating green jobs and improving energy infrastructure without a cap-and-trade provision that Republicans argue amounts to a major energy tax. In a statement last week, a Reid spokeswoman mentioned "clean energy legislation," financial regulatory reform and immigration among priorities for the first half of the year.