President Barack Obama, facing at best narrower Democratic majorities in Congress next year, is likely to break up his remaining legislative priorities into smaller bites in hope of securing at least some piecemeal proposals on energy, climate change, immigration and terrorism policy, White House officials say.
In a series of recent campaign appearances, Obama has talked up the stakes in the November election as he seeks to energize supporters and retain Democratic control of Congress. At the same time, White House officials have begun revamping their legislative strategies.
They are talking about a new, more incremental approach, championed by former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to fulfilling campaign promises on energy, immigration and on closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The new White House chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is far more steeped than Emanuel in the culture of the Senate, where comprehensive approaches to some of these issues have fared poorly. White House officials hope Rouse's expertise will help navigate smaller measures through the chamber.
"We weren't able to do a lot of those other things even with this Congress. That obviously calls for a new approach," one White House official said.
Obama, looking ahead to the 2012 presidential campaign, has told people he is determined to make good on his 2008 campaign promises. And with the departure of Emanuel—who came to be mistrusted by the left—the president has a better chance to repair relations with the party's liberal base on issues such as Guantanamo even as he reaches out to Republicans on the deficit.
Obama has hinted at this new legislative strategy while promising to press forward on climate change and energy, immigration and the Guantanamo Bay prison.
"One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this," he said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.