By Teresa Welsh |
While it is hard to expect President Obama and congressional Republicans to bridge their differences on taxes and spending anytime soon, there are a host of other areas in which leadership by the president could foster bipartisan consensus and lead to substantive accomplishments. Issues ripe for presidential leadership include immigration reform, housing finance reform, energy policy, and securing new trade agreements. Progress in these areas would have numerous beneficial impacts.
Immigration: A bipartisan coalition exists for immigration reform that both improves businesses' ability to hire skilled workers, including students who finish a degree in the United States, and addresses the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country. President Obama has vacillated between hanging back to allow Congress to work and occasionally looking to use the issue as a political wedge. A choice to engage constructively with congressional Republicans could hasten immigration reform.
Housing finance reform: Nine out of 10 mortgages are now funded by the federal government, exposing taxpayers to risk and distorting the allocation of capital. A bipartisan reform would bring in private investors to take risks on housing, but with the government as a secondary backstop to ensure that families can get mortgages across market conditions. President Obama could move this along by putting forward a specific proposal.
Energy policy: New "fracking" technology promises to boost oil and natural gas production, driving down U.S. energy prices and boosting our energy independence. A bipartisan approach would let exploration proceed while ensuring strict environmental protections. President Obama seems ready to take a first step toward a new energy future by approving the Keystone XL pipeline to transport new oil supplies from Canada and the upper U.S. Midwest into the U.S. distribution system.
Trade opening: Mr. Obama will find bipartisan support if he follows through on his promises in the recent State of the Union address to boost our trade relations with Europe and Japan. This would help our economy and those of our key allies.
The White House these days seems to be inhabited by the campaigner in chief. But much is possible if Mr. Obama were to switch to governing by looking to find common ground with Republicans. Leadership by the president in dealing with congressional Republicans is needed.
About Phillip Swagel Former assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department.
Paul Broun U.S. Representative for Georgia
Brandon Rottinghaus Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston
Thomas Mann Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution