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"Complicated Legislative Agenda" Faces Congress and White House, Writes Lee Hamilton '52

"Complicated Legislative Agenda" Faces Congress and White House, Writes Lee Hamilton '52

February 24, 2013

"Earlier this year, it seemed there might be some hope for Capitol Hill when Congress dealt easily with raising the debt ceiling," writes Lee H. Hamilton, former U.S. Congressman and 1952 graduate of DePauw University, in a newspaper op-ed. "But don’t let that single episode fool you. As President Obama and House Republicans circle each other over the forthcoming budget cuts known as the 'sequester,' it’s a reminder that Congress and the White House have a complicated legislative agenda ahead -- and that none of the items on it will come easily."

In the view of Hamilton, a Democrat who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, "However Congress and the White House proceed, it’s unlikely there will be any 'grand bargain.' Instead, they are likely to make piecemeal progress on the core issues: increasing tax revenues and cutting spending on entitlements. Confrontations over these matters will make it harder to tackle other economic issues that need addressing, such as how to address the regulation of the biggest banks and how to US Capitol side afinance the infrastructure that our economic growth desperately needs."

He adds, "Congress will also turn to health care. As long as President Obama is in office, his signature health plan will not be repealed, but there will almost certainly be fights over its implementation and funding. The big issue -- how to control health-care costs -- will remain a centerpiece of the debate, but it is unclear how it will get addressed. On the other hand, there is unambiguous movement on immigration reform. While Democrats have coalesced around a comprehensive approach to the issue -- which would include ways of easing the stay of highly skilled workers, a guest-worker program, and a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country -- Republicans have generally preferred tackling specific issues separately. The two sides can find common ground, especially on high-skilled workers. Possible citizenship, on the other hand, will be much knottier to resolve. So while the gridlock may be easing, comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system is not assured."

According to the veteran statesman, "You can also look for piece-by-piece initiatives on gun control. While the White House and some members of Congress are looking for wide-ranging legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, others are focused on specific proposals that can gain bipartisan support. Some members with widely different views, for instance, are coalescing around an effort to expand requirements for background checks on gun sales."

Access the complete column, which appears in a number of newspapers across America, here

Now director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, Lee Hamilton co-chaired the 9/11 Commission and Iraq Study Group and was recently appointed a Professor of Practice at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).

Hamilton majored in history as an undergraduate and starred on the Tiger basketball team (and is a member of both the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the DePauw Athletic Hall of Fame). He has been a frequent visitor to DePauw over the years, and delivered an Ubben Lecture on March 15, 2011.