The 2010 agenda shifts

After that bill was signed, Obama urged lawmakers to pass healthcare reform.


Unions were told that “card-check” legislation would have to wait. Environmentalists pressing for a climate change bill were delivered promises that it would be passed sometime this Congress. Proponents of immigration reform were likewise informed: We’ll get to that next year.

Well, it’s almost next year. Healthcare reform has advanced through the House and could hit the Senate floor this week, but it’s unlikely to become law by Christmas. The best-case scenario for Democrats is that they pass the bill before Obama’s State of the Union address early next year.

When Obama addresses Congress, he will be talking a lot more about jobs than controversial issues such as card-check.

Left-leaning groups lobbying for healthcare reform have given the White House time to enact the stimulus and healthcare legislation.

But in 2010, they want their issues on the agenda. Some congressional Democrats, however, who are increasingly worried about the midterm elections, want the White House want to focus on jobs, jobs and jobs — not immigration, card-check and climate change.

By announcing a December summit on jobs, the White House signaled that a jobs bill is its next top priority.

With the unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, Democratic leaders know they must work on the issue — or suffer huge losses at the polls next fall.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said Democrats are aiming to move a jobs bill through the lower chamber by Christmas. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-Nev.) has indicated he will also move a jobs measure.

 While it remains uncertain how much the jobs legislation will add to the deficit, the 2010 legislative agenda has shifted noticeably.

 If Democrats succeed in enacting comprehensive healthcare reform and a big jobs bill, it will be an accomplishment to boast of through the election.

 But it could be late spring before both bills are signed. By that time, some will argue that climate change, card-check and immigration reform should wait until 2011.

 Proponents of these bills are highly unlikely, however, to sit quietly (as they did during Obama’s post-inauguration honeymoon) and wait for the 112th Congress. After all, some of these officials say, if not now, when? Democrats control the White House, enjoy a comfortable House majority and, when unified, have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

 It will be a test of Obama’s leadership skills to pursue his 2010 agenda and appease his allies on the left while protecting vulnerable incumbents.