The 112th Congress: Compromise or Gridlock?

An audio Q&A with political scientist Neil Malhotra.
December 29, 2010

The 2010 midterm elections shook things up. A surge of support for new political movements like the Tea Party and worry over the economy contributed to heavy Democratic losses on both national and state levels, which ultimately saw Republicans recapturing the House. Associate Professor of political science Neil Malhotra, whose research has been published in the American political science Review, the Journal of Politics, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sits down to shed light on the numerous challenges the 112th Congress faces, and answer the big question: Will any meaningful legislation get passed?

"It's important to note that the American government is designed to have gridlock," Malhotra says. "There are so many veto points in the system: the filibuster in the Senate, the Presidential veto—things can get stuck in committee. It was hard to pass legislation even when the Democrats had huge majorities in the 111th Congress. It has less to do with control and more to do with the distribution of political preferences in the House and Senate."

In addition to his assessment of voting patterns, Malhotra also analyzes the new leadership and forecasts the trajectory of social issues like "Don't ask don't tell."

The Tea Party has gotten a lot of attention in the media. How did Tea Party victories impact the election?

Is there any must-pass legislature? Bills that the two parties might be forced to compromise on?

Will the Senate and the President be risking public disapproval if they veto too many House bills? Does the executive branch wield any other special powers?

What type of leadership style will new speaker John Boehner provide? Who are some of the other Congressional power players?

How will the new Congressional structure affect social issues like "Don't ask don't tell" and immigration?

Will the 112th Congress be remembered for its gridlock?