Hope for the best from dysfunctional Congress

Mitch McConnell (left) and John Boehner (center) will disagree often with Barack Obama in 2015.
Mitch McConnell (left) and John Boehner (center) will disagree often with Barack Obama in 2015. The Associated Press

Congress is back in session, and Democrats and Republicans already are eagerly serving the American people in a spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation.

Of course, we jest.

Since the 2014 elections, Americans have girded for when this often-dysfunctional and extremely unpopular institution would again start conducting the public’s business, or at least go through the motions of doing so.

True to expectations, President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — along with many others — have exchanged barbed warnings over what will or won’t get done.

▪ “Full repeal of #Obamacare must be the goal,” U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder tweeted Thursday. Hours later, the Overland Park Republican and his colleagues approved a bill aimed at weakening the Affordable Care Act, a bill that nonpartisan and even some conservative groups said would hurt the very workers the GOP claims to want to protect. Obama has pledged to veto it.

▪ On Friday, the Republican-controlled House approved the Keystone XL pipeline; the GOP-led Senate expects to follow later this month. Obama has said he will veto a project that’s environmentally and economically questionable, given plunging oil prices.

▪ GOP leaders keep emphasizing that comprehensive immigration reform is off the table. Fortunately, Obama took steps last year through executive actions to stave off deportations of some immigrants. But Congress, after years of inaction, needs to stop making millions of people live in legal limbo.

Will Americans desperate for a productive relationship between Congress and the president see any progress at all? Yes, and it should be on one that’s especially positive for Kansas and Missouri: normalizing relations with Cuba.

Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas properly says he supports Obama’s call to ease longtime economic restrictions against Cuba, saying it’s a “natural market for U.S. agricultural commodities, including Kansas wheat.” This week, Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri hailed the potential opening of new markets for the state’s farmers.

In a recent poll, Americans said they were confident gridlock again would stifle progress this year in Washington. Against all odds, Congress and Obama need to prove that prediction wrong.