Politics 2013: Will acrimony still rule in Congress? Stay tuned.

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  Jan. 13, 2013 at 5:01 AM
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After U.S. voters approved status quo government in November, can anything but the status quo be expected?

Soon after his second election, President Obama spoke of being willing to consider any good idea -- no matter its party or political ideology of origin -- but spoke of the American electorate, through its vote, crying out for change and against politics as usual in Washington.

House Speaker John Boehner spoke of a willingness to work with Obama -- while reminding folks the budget- and fiscal-minded Republicans weren't ousted from the House leadership and still wielded some weight.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who vowed to make Obama a one-term president, noted Democrats still didn't have a filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber and Republicans still led the lower chamber.

Wounds were licked. Promises of rebuilding and rebranding were made. Declarations of a mandate uttered.

And a fiscal catastrophe was looming in the form of tax rate increases and draconian, indiscriminate, across-the-board federal spending cuts that would take effect Jan. 1 if something weren't done. Quickly.

Obama and Boehner met to try to create a grand plan to address the pending upheaval known as the fiscal cliff. Obama laid out his plan; Boehner gave his. Neither budged; both complained mightily and Boehner walked away.

Sound familiar?

A deal was struck -- between McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden -- but there still was drama among House Republicans loathe to vote for a tax rate hike for incomes above $400,000 (individual) and $450,000 (joint). A few did, eventually, and the bill passed with a lot of Democratic help. All after the Jan. 1 deadline when the country fell over the fiscal cliff.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Obama and congressional Democrats predicted that the re-election of the president would snap the partisan "fever" they claimed struck Washington and the Republican Party, MSNBC.com said.

"I believe if we're successful -- when we're successful in this election -- the fever may break. My hope and my expectation is that after the election, now that it turns out the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again," Obama said on the stump in June. "We can start getting some cooperation again."

But still the resistance to Obama and their own leaders persists among Republicans. A coup was averted when the House opened two weeks ago as revolt-minded members came within two votes of denying Boehner the speaker's gavel for a second term on the first ballot because, they said, the fiscal cliff package gave away too much to Democrats. Some members of his party raked the Ohio Republican over the coals for canceling a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief package before the end of the 112th Congress.

But Republicans still are willing to go toe-to-toe with a White House they view as resolute, saying taxes are an issue of the past and now, as the country nears its credit limit (actually, the limit's been hit but creative accounting bought about two months), the topic du jour is spending cuts to achieve deficit reduction.

Some Republicans say it's OK for the government to partially shut down if it results in a deal that helps ensure long-term fiscal security.

"It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, recently wrote in the Houston Chronicle. "President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately."

The party's top member on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, minced no words in a Washington Examiner commentary: "I think it should be a firm principle that we should not raise the debt ceiling until we have a plan on how the new borrowed money will be spent."

The party also promised that Obama's choice for Defense secretary, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., would meet resistance. And one senator said he's considering putting a hold on Obama's nomination of John Brennan as CIA chief over questions he has about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Politico and others traced some of the GOP recalcitrance to the primaries and the threat of real competition. CBS News noted that the vast majority of incumbents (on both sides of the aisle) won handily by at least 20 percentage points. Politico points to the 151 Republican "no" votes on the final compromise as proof as to how primaries have become the key threat within the caucus in which more than half the members faced token Election Day opposition.

"We had a number of our members who just really didn't want to be perceived as having raised taxes," Boehner explained when asked why he couldn't bring his DOA Plan B "fiscal cliff" bill to the floor.

Some senior Republicans dismiss such concerns.

"If you can't win your primary by securing tax cuts for 90 percent of your constituents, you're not a very good politician," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a compromise advocate, told Politico. "I would beat somebody to death if they tried to run against me on this issue."

And the dissent in the ranks isn't lost on the electorate, MSNBC said.

The GOP's negative rating jumped to 45 percent recently, with 30 percent of Americans saying they have a positive attitude toward the party, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll indicated.

"It's bad mojo for the Republican party," Republican pollster Micah Roberts said, noting that politics in America "are fluid."

"In December 2008, our numbers were actually a touch worse than this," Roberts told MSNBC. "In November 2010, Republicans pick up 62 seats in the House and six in the Senate."

It's not that the populous is enamored of Democrats, Democratic pollster Fred Yang said. Just that they're removed from the GOP.

"Sometimes elections or policy differences are about choices," Yang told MSNBC. "And if it's the president versus Republicans, he wins."

Coming at it from a different perspective is Erick Erickson of RedState.com, who says conservatives who tried to oust Boehner -- despite assurances he doesn't hold a grudge -- may be in trouble now and later.

"There are more and more signs that the GOP establishment intends 2014 as an election season to seek revenge on conservatives," Erickson wrote recently. "Conservatives are going to have to hang together or they will absolutely hang separately."

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