The battleground has been set for the 113th Congress with partisan polarization at its peak and November 2014 re-elections looming. The ongoing bickering among lawmakers has earned this Congress a “do-nothing” label. At the end of 2013, 56 bills had been signed into law in the first session of the 113th Congress. Add the fact that in October, the federal government had its first partial shutdown in nearly two decades.
*View Pres. Obama’s State of the Union below*
A CNN/ORC International poll revealed that nearly three-quarters of the public say that this has been the worst Congress in their lifetime. Assuming legislators don’t pick up the pace this year, this will become the least productive Congress in at least the last 40 years, according to a CNN analysis of congressional records. Lawmakers must find a way to reach across the aisle to achieve any real progress although the House of Representatives (out of session until Feb. 26) is more divided than the Senate (back in session today), according to political pundits.
President Obama, in the first of potentially many executive actions tied to his State of the Union address, signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, from $7.25. The President said like many presidents before him he would issue executive orders to address pressing issues that fall within his range of responsibility.
BlackEnterprise.com talked to political analysts to weigh in on the most pressing political issues for 2014 that will greatly affect the lives of all Americans, especially African Americans.
Here are the top 5:
The bipartisan federal budget deal reached before the Jan. 15 deadline signaled compromise is possible, raising hope for immigration reform. The Senate passed a bill in June providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and more effective border security. Democrats are pushing House Republicans to vote on the bill or propose their own immigration legislation.
Even with HealthCare.gov getting fixed, Tea Party Republicans will continue to push for a complete repeal while Democrats are likely to call for reform. Repealing Obamacare would effectively take healthcare away from millions and roll back controversial measures such as covered preventative care, coverage despite pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to stay on their parents insurance until age 26.
Student loan debt is a hot button topic. The fallout from an increase in student loan rates could be substantial for college students and their parents. Making college affordable is a White House top priority. The challenge is getting bipartisan Congressional support to keep student loan interest rates down.
Congress will be called upon to help create jobs by increasing federal spending on infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges. The black unemployment rate fell in November but remains high at 12.5%. Emergency unemployment insurance benefits expired December 2013. Congress has failed at attempts to extend unemployment insurance benefits. There remains a record number, more than 1.7 million, of long-term jobless Americans.
President Obama signed an executive order raising the federal minimum wage in an effort to build momentum for a minimum wage hike for all Americans. Increasing minimum wage could help millions of Americans support their families and lessen reliance on government assistance. Bills to raise the minimum wage are under consideration. One currently sponsored by Congressional Democrats would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in three stages.