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A former congressional insider offers the good and bad of the next four years

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Shown here are House Speaker John Boehner, left, and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.AP

What can we expect from Congress in the next four years?  Now that the election is over, will Congress learn to get along?

The election having shown the general public to be nearly evenly divided, what are the possibilities Congress will stop rampant partisanship long enough to address the serious problems facing this nation?

If twelve years served in the US House of Representatives taught me anything, it was how very difficult it is to move entrenched attitudes there.

Tuesday night’s results left us in exactly the same position we’ve been in for the past four years.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is still presiding over a dysfunctional Senate. Speaker John Boehner is still presiding over a fractious House and President Obama is still presiding over a badly divided country.  

It will be even more difficult for Congress to work successfully over the coming years because the Democrats increased their hold on the Senate and the Republicans their hold on the House. That alone ensures partisan voting on basic policy issues. It also will ensure large, complicated bills with partisan lines giving many special features to people the leadership has  bargained with in order to secure a promised vote. Remember Senator Landrieu’s “Louisiana purchase” deal with Harry Reid?

Even with the popular vote of 50% to 48%, expect neither side to give way.  Remember Nancy Pelosi’s answer when asked why there was little bi-partisan work being done on the health care bill, “we won.”  

It was clear from President Obama’s speech Tuesday night; there will be little change in his attitude.  Each side in our national politics has a sense of having been wronged and of their policy aims being morally superior.  That isn’t going to change any time soon.  The one thing that has changed is that it will be useless for the president to continue to blame Republicans for his inept handling of the county. There is no longer any point.

Oh, there will be much hot air expended on both sides, but moving the nation forward on serious issues like solving the problem of the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and defense reductions, restructuring laws so small businesses can thrive and create jobs, and recharging the economic stability of the nation so our credit rating becomes attractive for more investment will be slow in coming.

Anyone hoping for a change in the tone and rhetoric of the last four years should turn off all electronics, phones and stop reading the newspapers. Try living off the grid.

I believe what we can expect for this new chapter of Congress will be angry, hard rhetoric from increased partisanship and continued tinkering about the edges of major bills, with little of major consequence addressing our problems.   

Expect increased taxes, increased Agency controlled regulations, increased health care costs and a lack of a Federal budget to help hold down spending and reduce the debt.  There seems little chance of détente on any of these issues.  

The only glimmer of hope we citizens have would be changes in leadership in both the House and the Senate. Removing Harry Reid from leadership, with his limited vision and hard- core partisan style of ruling the Senate would be a welcome indicator that the Senators will once again work together to get things done. Perhaps, without Senator Reid as leader, the Senate will pass a budget.  

Removing from the House leadership some of the strongly right-wing leaders currently there, will allow the passage of bills to solve our real and serious problems.  Unfortunately we, the public, have no voice in who becomes leadership on either house.  Only the Senators and Congressmen control that vote.  

Since voters get the government they vote for, apparently this must be what they want – another four years of partisan bickering while the country’s problems stagnate.  Would that it could have been otherwise.