We’ve had a leadership-challenged Congress for quite some time now.
Last election moved some of the seats around, putting Democrats in
control on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Business is about to
begin in the new session. Now what?

Well, the challenge to Congress is now of historic proportion.

Democrats will pack greater clout when the new Congress
convenes on Tuesday but they face enormous expectations from voters as
they grapple with two wars, a financial crisis and record budget
deficits.

And the fact that they won this majority by promising voters change, for the better.

Other Democratic promises include: withdrawing U.S.
troops from Iraq and redeploying many of them in Afghanistan; expanding
health care; bolstering regulation of the financial industry and
developing alternative energy sources while curbing pollution that
contributes to global warming.

But the roadmap to change has been re-written and the goals redefined (which is politics as usual, actually).

“…Obama needs to lower expectations,” said Paul Light of New York University’s Center for the Study of Congress.

“There is a historic gap between promises made and promises
fulfilled. Converting promises into reality is a difficult process,”
Light said, noting major legislation must wind through a maze of
committees.

But until he’s sworn in, Obama is still smoothly making promises.

“I am optimistic that if we come together to seek
solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of
any one group, but the aspirations of all Americans, then we will meet
the challenges of our time,” he said in his party’s weekly radio
address.

His chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is helping advance that rhetoric. Or
message, if you will. They realize we’re deep into trouble, and their
jobs in Washington have become mission critical.

Lawmakers sense that the need for action is urgent,
Emanuel said, and they recognize that Congress’s dismal approval
ratings would make them easy scapegoats if the gamesmanship continues.
“You never allow a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said.
“People sense that we’re at a different moment in time, and that you
have to put aside preconceived notions and partisanship to solve
problems.”

Remember these lines when they actually get down to business this
week, and after the inauguration. The press probably won’t, but never
mind them. We have to hold leaders accountable.

We’ve had a leadership-challenged Congress for quite some time now.
Last election moved some of the seats around, putting Democrats in
control on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Business is about to
begin in the new session. Now what?

Well, the challenge to Congress is now of historic proportion.

Democrats will pack greater clout when the new Congress
convenes on Tuesday but they face enormous expectations from voters as
they grapple with two wars, a financial crisis and record budget
deficits.

And the fact that they won this majority by promising voters change, for the better.

Other Democratic promises include: withdrawing U.S.
troops from Iraq and redeploying many of them in Afghanistan; expanding
health care; bolstering regulation of the financial industry and
developing alternative energy sources while curbing pollution that
contributes to global warming.

But the roadmap to change has been re-written and the goals redefined (which is politics as usual, actually).

“…Obama needs to lower expectations,” said Paul Light of New York University’s Center for the Study of Congress.

“There is a historic gap between promises made and promises
fulfilled. Converting promises into reality is a difficult process,”
Light said, noting major legislation must wind through a maze of
committees.

But until he’s sworn in, Obama is still smoothly making promises.

“I am optimistic that if we come together to seek
solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of
any one group, but the aspirations of all Americans, then we will meet
the challenges of our time,” he said in his party’s weekly radio
address.

His chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is helping advance that rhetoric. Or
message, if you will. They realize we’re deep into trouble, and their
jobs in Washington have become mission critical.

Lawmakers sense that the need for action is urgent,
Emanuel said, and they recognize that Congress’s dismal approval
ratings would make them easy scapegoats if the gamesmanship continues.
“You never allow a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said.
“People sense that we’re at a different moment in time, and that you
have to put aside preconceived notions and partisanship to solve
problems.”

Remember these lines when they actually get down to business this
week, and after the inauguration. The press probably won’t, but never
mind them. We have to hold leaders accountable.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....