WASHINGTON (AP) — A top White House adviser said Sunday the stars seem aligned for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul this year, but he sounded less confident about prospects for toughening the nation's gun laws.
White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe made the rounds on Sunday talk shows, outlining the president's agenda for the months ahead. He 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 helped transform budget deficits into budget surpluses.
He 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.
"We've dealt with the tax rate issue. Now it's about loopholes," Plouffe said on ABC. "And I think the country would be well-served by tax and entitlement reform, because it'll help our economy."
Beyond the economy and the budget, Plouffe indicated that two social issues will be a focus at the outset of the president's second term: immigration and gun control.
On gun control, he mixed statements of optimism with an acknowledgement of political realities. Republicans control the House, and even some Democrats in the Senate have been extremely cautious in addressing the issue.
"It's going to be very, very hard," Plouffe said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming underscored that point. He said he doubted supporters could get 60 votes in the Senate for legislation allowing universal background checks for gun purchasers and for limiting gun magazines to 10 rounds and under.
"The debt and spending. That's where people are focused. That's the big anxiety of this country," Barrasso said on CNN.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., 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. Continued...