Let’s just call 2014 the carryover year in U.S. politics -- because that’s exactly what’s about to happen. The 113th Congress left Capitol Hill with several pieces of unfinished business that it either must get done or has promised to resolve this year.
Here’s a look at some of the issues to watch for in 2014:
2013 looked like it was going to be the year Congress would achieve the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate was first to respond to the calls for an overhaul, passing a massive bill last June to put additional border security boots on the ground and more fencing along the Mexican border. The bill, which stood at more than 1,000 pages, also included what lawmakers called a hard-earned 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Despite that, and even with a Republican border-security amendment that helped the bill clear the upper chamber, immigration reform would face roadblocks in the GOP-led House, where leaders refused to take up any legislation that resembled the Senate’s -- or even to let any legislation go to conference. Possible U.S. involvement in the conflict in Syria, the fight over Obamacare and the government shutdown provided perfect cover for lawmakers uneasy about fixing the broken immigration system. But pro-reform advocates haven't let the issue go and promise to make it a centerpiece of the 2014 midterm campaigns. Why shouldn't they? They know there is support for their issue. House Speaker John Boehner hired a pro-reform advocate on his team; several top GOP lawmakers support restructuring the system; others have indicated that immigration reform must get done before the midterm elections overshadow it -- if this comes to pass, then it’s a safe bet the issue is far from over.
A Republican-led Senate?
On the issue of midterm elections, you might want to pay close attention to what’s happening in the Senate. Republicans only need to snag six seats, and the Democratic-led Senate is no more. But can they do it? Americans overwhelmingly blamed congressional Republicans for the October government shutdown that furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers and took about $24 billion out of the economy.
That’s not all that happened in October. A disastrous rollout of the Obamacare enrollment website gave Republicans ample political ammunition that they aren’t afraid to use, which is not entirely good news for vulnerable Democrats in red states. And according to a December Quinnipiac University poll, the president’s approval rating is at a mere 38 percent. If Republicans end up running both chambers of Congress, Obama would face an even more brutal backlash in his second term.
Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul 2016?
After the midterms we probably should be looking to hear some news about 2016 presidential candidates. It may not be too soon to get an announcement of a Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign, or hints that Joe Biden might run. As for the GOP, it has no shortage of candidates. Among the possibles are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has recently hired counsel to renounce his dual Canadian citizenship. Then there are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Tea Party darlings Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Before all of that excitement, though, Washington must tackle a topic that’s a little more humdrum. The debt ceiling issue returns between February and March. Obama said he will not negotiate and Republicans are right now figuring out what they want out of this. Sounds like a familiar game played before the government shutdown in October? That’s because it is. Experts agree that Congress and the president aren’t so crazy as to possibly cause the U.S. to default on it obligations and send the world’s economies into a tailspin. What remains to be seen is if Congress can cut a bipartisan deal on this like they did on the budget, or if both sides employ a my-way-or-the-highway strategy.
Democrats and Republicans want to get this done, and they actually have some proposals for how to go about it. But much like last year, federal tax reform is likely to carry over into next year or the year after that. (You get the picture.) Adding to the issues that make tax reform unikely soon, Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is expected to be tapped by the administration to be the next ambassador to China. Baucus and Rep. Dave Camp. R-Mich., have been leading the charge to fix the U.S. tax code. Camp serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and his term ends after 2014.