President Obama returned to Washington from his Mideast trip with a full plate of nettlesome issues to deal with, and it's unlikely that his modestly successful foreign jaunt will provide momentum to propel his domestic agenda.
The budget: Obama's efforts to find compromise on the budget and deficit reduction remain stymied. The House, controlled by Republicans, has approved a budget drawn up by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan that would balance the budget within 10 years largely by cutting $5 trillion from future spending. It also would make fundamental changes in the Medicare health insurance program for seniors. Democrats say these provisions are too severe.
The Senate, controlled by Democrats, passed 50-49 on Saturday morning a much different budget that would raise taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade but would not balance the budget in that period. Republicans oppose the tax hikes and say the measure doesn't cut the deficit nearly enough.
Members of Congress congratulated themselves, however, for their agreement on a temporary measure to avoid a government shutdown this week.
Obama plans to give a speech on the economy Friday in Miami, where he is expected to again call for a "balanced approach" that includes both tax increases and spending cuts.
Immigration: Obama is scheduled to address a naturalization ceremony Monday that will include members of the military who are on active duty. And he's expected to again urge Congress to pass a bill overhauling the immigration laws. Legislators seem to be slowly making some progress on that score but they have a long way to go.
A bipartisan group of senators led by New York's Charles Schumer is working on a comprehensive immigration bill that may be ready for consideration in early April and is expected to be the main vehicle for final legislation. If it passes the Senate, it will have rough going in the House.
The key provision is a path to citizenship for many of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, an idea favored by President Obama but resisted by some conservative legislators. However, more Republicans are expected to back a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 than in the past in order to change the perception among Latinos that the GOP doesn't have their interests at heart.
Gun control: The Senate will debate gun control legislation when lawmakers return from their spring break in April. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the main legislation will not include a ban on assault weapons because there aren't enough votes for passage. But there will be provisions for universal background checks on would-be gun purchasers and stricter federal criminal laws for gun trafficking, Reid says.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pledge to continue fighting for the assault weapons ban as part of a larger gun-control bill.
Keystone XL pipeline: The Senate voted 62-37 on Friday in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. The vote was nonbinding, but it showed strong sentiment for the project because, advocates say, the United States needs the oil and the jobs that would be created.
The Obama administration has been studying the project, which environmentalists oppose because they say it would add to global warming and be prone to oil spills. Obama will cause howls of protest no matter which way his administration goes on this issue.
- Tourism on Display as Obama Visits the Mideast
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- Obama Trades Washington Gridlock for Mideast Gridlock
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.