Washington: A top White House adviser said on Sunday he’s optimistic that Congress could pass comprehensive immigration reform this year, but he sounded less confident about the chances for toughening the nation’s gun laws.
White House senior adviser David Plouffe spoke on Sunday talk shows, outlining President Barack Obama’s agenda for the months ahead.
Obama was sworn in for a second four-year term during a quiet ceremony on Sunday at the White House, and inauguration festivities are on Monday.
Plouffe said past presidents have been able to make significant progress during their second terms, noting that President Ronald Reagan pushed through more tax cuts and that President Bill Clinton oversaw progress on a balanced budget.
Plouffe said Obama’s focus will be on improving the economy, saying the president believes the best way to do that is to invest in education and manufacturing while also seeking what he called “balanced deficit reduction”.
Republicans agreed to let tax cuts expire this year for those workers whose incomes exceed $400,000 a year, but Plouffe said that future negotiations on reducing the deficit will have to include more tax revenue as well as spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs such as pensions and health care.
Beyond the economy and the budget, Plouffe indicated that two social issues will be a focus at the start of the president’s second term: immigration and gun control.
On gun control, he mixed statements of optimism with an acknowledgement of the political reality that Republicans control the House of Representatives and that some Democrats in the Senate they control have also been extremely cautious to address the issue.
“It’s going to be very, very hard,” Plouffe said on CBS. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, would not answer whether he could support background checks for every gun purchase. Without getting into specifics, he advocated for better information-sharing to prevent some people with mental health problems from buying guns. “ Let’s do things that will make a difference here, rather than take one more opportunity to go at an old agenda,” Blunt, a gun-rights advocate, said on Fox News.
On immigration, Plouffe said he believes there’s broader support from Republicans nationally than there is from Republicans in Congress. Still, “the stars are aligned” for a bill that would include strengthening border security as well as giving those already in the US illegally a path to citizenship.
In leading up to Monday’s inauguration, the White House has sought to leave the impression that the president will seek common ground with Republicans. It will also seek to undertake public campaigns to build pressure on Congress to act.
“We’re also going to bring the American people more into the debate than we did in the first term,” Plouffe said.
The White House will also seek to undertake public campaigns to build pressure on Congress to act. The new mobilizing effort will be led by a tax-exempt group called Organizing for Action.
The move represents the first time a sitting president has ever transformed his presidential campaign operation into an outside group with the express purpose of promoting his agenda.