Divided Congress: Gridlock or opportunity?

Could the newly divided Congress be a “recipe for gridlock?” or an opportunity for bipartisanship? Politico asks.

Politico reports that the divided government can look back to 1994 as a model of reaching across the aisle. President Clinton worked with Republicans on budget issues and welfare reform.

The issues facing Congress now include sorting out the leftover annual appropriations for this fiscal year and deciding to extend some or all of the Bush-era tax rates to expire at the end of the year.

Compromise will be a “serious challenge” to both sides. Many Republicans were swept into office for being “anti-establishment,” opposing the Obama agenda on the bailout, stimulus and health care, Politico reports.

Despite the strong rhetoric against the Obama agenda, some Republicans are already talking about compromise with Democrats.

In a press conference last night, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — who has been painted as a “partisan bombthrower” — said his job is “not to bring down the president,” according to Politico. Issa is the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and said his committee will take a “narrow” jurisdiction.

The culture of divisiveness was already evident nearly five decades ago to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote Steve Perlstein in the Washington Post.

Perlstein said the new members of Congress can take a few lessons from Moynihan, who served four presidents and four terms in the Senate representing New York. Moynihan could see how political and social trends were going to play out before anyone else and call attention to these issues.

Perlstein asks Congress: “Are you going to accept the low bar now set for political leadership, or will you commit yourself to bringing some Moynihan-like style, intelligence, candor and independence to an ailing institution?

What both sides seem to agree on — whether accurate or not — is that federal employees have become a symbol of bloated government. In a blog post, Government Executive’s Tom Shoop wrote, “When you have to organize a rally called ‘Government Doesn’t Suck,’ it’s probably time to acknowledge you’ve lost the public debate.”

Shoop said the public anger toward feds is rooted in the economic crisis, which has led to “abstract, inchoate rage about a faceless government that seems unable to fix systemic economic problems.”

Shoop added, “It’ll take more than Obama initiatives to improve customer service, make government data available online and streamline the hiring process to turn that around.”

Here’s the good news for feds: Many Washington, D.C.-area politicians with a keen interest in feds won their races, including Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) who said a federal pay freeze would be “demoralizing,” GovExec reports.

TAKE OUR POLL: What will be the biggest impact for feds coming from the 2010 vote?

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