The general election campaign for president is springing to life, now that Mitt Romney is all but certain to be President Obama's Republican opponent next fall. On Capitol Hill, though, the battle over who will sign or veto Congress' bills next year is already blazing.
In two key votes this past week, many Republicans fell in step with candidate Romney and his quest for more support from younger voters and women.
Like a mirror that reflects one's ideology back at the viewer, and no more so than during a general-election year, the political players saw what they wanted, and what they thought was most politically useful to their side, in the reports Monday by the Social Security and Medicare trustees on the long-term prospects for those two entitlement programs.
Part of President Obama's 2012 re-election strategy was to run against a do-nothing Congress. But congressional Republicans now appear determined to make that approach harder for him by coming to terms on some Democratic priorities.
Congress appears to have avoided another showdown over the payroll tax reduction that has been pumping billions of dollars back into the economy. There may even be a deal ahead on jobless benefits and payments to Medicare doctors.
The last time Congress extended the payroll tax holiday was in December, when it passed a two-month extension tied to two other measures. One extended unemployment benefits, and the second fixed a formula by which Medicare doctors are paid. The Medicare fix would stop big cuts in reimbursements for doctors.