- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Congress has a chance to do better in 2014 than in 2013, but it wouldn’t take much to top one of the least productive years in Washington history.

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said Congress set a very low bar for productivity and cooperation in 2013 that it’ll likely be able to top next year.

“I’m afraid we’re not going to see a lot [of cooperation], but we’ll see some,” he said Tuesday on MSNBC.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, however, said the meager budget deal didn’t make him optimistic about the prospect of progress in 2014.

“I am pessimistic,” he said Tuesday on MSNBC. “That was a very minor deal. Republicans had been politically wounded by the shutdown, so they didn’t want to do that again. We got a very minor deal that doesn’t really deal with our budget problems.”

In the new year, Congress is set to tackle a new farm bill, immigration reform and an extension of long-term unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Republican, said he’ll aim to tackle a short-term extension to unemployment benefits in early 2014, which Mr. Bernstein said is reasonably possible.

Mr. Nadler sees some hope for immigration reform in 2014 since Speaker John A. Boehner added immigration policy expert Rebecca Tallent to his staff, he said.

“Maybe he’s willing to change the path that the Republicans have been taking in the House because that path has lead nowhere so far,” he said.

Another priority in the new year will be raising the debt ceiling so the country doesn’t default on its debt. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said just days after striking a bipartisan budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, earlier this month that Republicans are talking about what they can get out of the debt ceiling negotiation while Democrats continue to call for a clean increase, without any other legislation attached.

“I believe we very quickly began to move away from kumbaya a couple weeks ago,” Mr. Bernstein said.