The first day of the 112th Congress brings with it an air of gritty tension, opposing sides on a field of battle prepping armies for total war, hovering over combat maps and plans while posting sweaty troops at key points in the trenches.
Each side seems poised for the impending gridlock of relentless partisanship and the ugly grind of Presidential election campaigning that starts a year early. Indications are already there as Republicans are locking and loading up on ammunition against everything from health care reform to House rules. Incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), while seemingly low-key on public profile, is hard-charging and take-no-prisoners on managing the new Republican majority.
Paul Kane in The Washington Post:
The first move will come Friday, when the House begins the process of repealing the new health-care law. House leaders will then quickly begin to identify tens of billions of dollars in proposed spending cuts and to ease regulations that businesses find burdensome.
Much of what Republicans do will be symbolic, given that Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. But the quick action will allow Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, and House Republicans to follow through on campaign pledges and to try to establish their party as a bulwark against what they see as an out-of-control government.
Recognizing the limits of their power, Republican leaders said they will follow their initial aggressive stance with efforts to force Obama into what they consider principled compromises. Those would most likely come with attempts to cut federal spending and spur job growth, two agenda items that both parties have set as priorities.
Boehner is set to shake up Capitol Hill in a way that will virtually force a political face lift of gargantuan proportions – a rule-changing nip/tuck that is meant to be the anti-Pelosi. As that’s taking place, the White House is preparing for battle with Republicans with changes of its own, from picking a permanent Chief of Staff to announcing – the same day as the start of the 112th Congress – the resignation of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. The White House staff shake-up, happening in near sync with the Republican takeover of the House, is pure calculation and intentional. Putting Gibbs on media display during Boehner’s first day as Hill boss is a clever move, draining attention and oxygen away from GOP chest thumping. Jeff Zeleny in the New York Times:
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary and close confidante to President Obama, said Wednesday that he will step down and become an outside political adviser to the president and his re-election campaign.
The departure of Mr. Gibbs is part of a series of moves inside the West Wing as the president prepares for a new phase of his administration. The internal shuffling also could bring a new White House chief of staff, a decision the president is expected to make by week’s end, with an announcement as early as next week.
Mr. Obama has narrowed his choice for chief of staff to Pete Rouse, who is serving in the post on an interim basis, or William Daley, a former Commerce Secretary and the brother of Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley. Mr. Daley has signaled to aides that he will accept the position if it is offered by the president, according to an official familiar with the talks. No other candidates are in line for the job.
“You’ll be seeing announcements in due course. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Mr. Obama said. “The American people are expecting us to hit the ground running and start working with this new Congress to promote job growth and keep the recovery going.”
The war for 2012 will be waged on a multiple front battlefield in 2011 before going electoral-college nuclear the following year. The White House is coordinating troops and resources fanned out from Washington to Chicago. The plan will be encirclement, a political strangling of the Republican House that could leave it ineffective in the new Congress – or, it could risk creating a nasty red-state backlash of unified tea party activists serving as back-up to fed-up conservative lawmakers feeling they have nothing to lose. Let the games begin. Welcome to the 112th Congress.