Five Big Issues For The New Congress
"There's no doubt for us to take on climate in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices and understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that -- I won't go for that."
However, last year's extreme weather did manage to bring the issue back to the forefront of national discussion. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who for a long time would not endorse a 2012 presidential candidate, endorsed Mr. Obama after superstorm Sandy ravaged the Eastern seaboard. Extreme weather has become a pressing problem for transportation systems all across the country, not just in New York.
A few lawmakers have expressed interest in reviving the issue on the Hill: Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., plans to lead weekly meetings to craft what she called a "major bill" to lower carbon emissions and "harden our infrastructure to protect our people against extreme weather." Meanwhile, incoming Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, is an advocate for developing alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.
Some of the greatest motivation for Congress to act this year may come from California: The state is beginning its cap-and-trade program, making it the largest carbon marketplace in the nation. If the effort to cut carbon pollution succeeds without hurting the economy, other states -- and perhaps Congress -- could consider following suit.
5. Tax reform
During December "fiscal cliff" negotiations, both Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were looking for hundreds of billions in new revenue in 2013 through a tax reform process that eliminated some tax deduction and closes loopholes.
Ironically, the deal that emerged may have complicated the bipartisan goal of comprehensive tax reform -- instead of closing loopholes, the deal in fact added $70 billion worth of new loopholes.
Nevertheless, leaders in Congress say the deal laid down a foundation for real reform. "Now that we have prevented a Democrat tax increase, the Ways and Means Committee will lead the effort to reform our tax code to make it simpler and fairer for families and small businesses, while also making American businesses and workers more competitive in the global marketplace," said Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing House committee.
The president has also expressed interest in working on individual and corporate tax reform -- and they may have to if they're looking for more revenues from the upcoming debt ceiling and "sequester" debates, since Republicans say they're done raising tax rates.