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Issue Tracker: New Face, Same Old Problems

Jun. 1, 2014 - 11:23AM   |  
By STAFF REPORT   |   Comments
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Shaun Donovan has been nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget. (Jewel Samad / AFP)
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Issue: New OMB Chief

What’s happening: President Barack Obama has tapped Shaun Donovan (above right) to become the next White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) boss. He is slated to take over for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is to become director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

What’s next: To be sure, given the state of White House-congressional relations, Donovan faces a tough road. In fact, longtime federal budget expert Stan Collender wrote last week that everyone should “pray for” Donovan. “There is also no indication whatsoever that the White House will work hard to get Congress to adopt either of the budgets that Donovan will have the responsibility for putting together,” he wrote. “Just the opposite is true.”

Issue: Congressional Gridlock

What’s happening: Fiscal cliffs. Government shutdowns. Few appropriations bills. There is no shortage of examples illustrating how the 113th Congress, like the 112th before it, has been stymied by partisan bad blood. That’s a big hill for Shaun Donovan to climb. Some lawmakers and analysts have said the gridlock comes down to how congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama feel about each other.

What’s next: Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution studied legislative patterns since 1947 and found “recent congressional deadlock may be different in degree from past deadlock, but not necessarily in kind.” Because of this decades-old trend, Binder warns in a new report that “we are left in the meantime with a national legislature plagued by low legislative capacity. Half-measures, second bests, and just-in-time legislating are the new norm.”

Issue: White House-Hill Relations

What’s happening: A senior House member recently told CongressWatch that no member of a recent congressional delegation got even a call back from the White House following a trip to Afghanistan. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., on May 28 echoed his colleague, saying during a public forum that White House officials “are very hard to work with.”

What’s next: Members and aides until a few months ago typically voiced such concerns with Obama administration officials in private. But increasingly, they are more willing to express them. Rogers and other members — Republicans and Democrats — want the White House to disclose how much in war funding it will need for fiscal 2015. But Rogers said getting that figure has been “the most frustrating” experience he can recall. Will that change under Shaun Donovan?

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