WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top White House adviser said Sunday the stars seem aligned for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform 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 oversaw progress on a balanced budget.
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 the political reality that Republicans control the House and that some Democrats in the Senate have also been extremely cautious to address 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.
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 beefing up border security as well as giving those already in the U.S. 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.