SCENARIOS-Obama to score few wins in U.S. Congress

* Wall Street reform, Kagan confirmation top to-do list

* Energy-environment debate likely nearing in Senate

* Election-year bickering seen limiting passage of bills

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON, July 12 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. Congress is headed
toward giving President Barack Obama a landmark crackdown on
Wall Street and confirmation of a second Supreme Court
nominee.

But Obama, who also notched up healthcare reform earlier
this year, is unlikely to score many other big victories on
Capitol Hill before voters decide in the November election
whether to keep his fellow Democrats in control of Congress.

With lawmakers facing an angry electorate, it is tough to
find much common ground on such hot-button issues as
immigration, energy and deficit reduction.

Here is a look at what issues Congress faces:

FINANCIAL REFORM

A landmark overhaul of financial industry rules is very
close to being approved in the Senate and then sent to Obama to
be signed into law. But the Democrats do not yet have all the
votes needed for approval. The death in June of 92-year-old
Democratic Senator Robert Byrd complicated efforts to pass the
bill. The Democrats are looking for support from moderate
Republican Senators like Charles Grassley, Olympia Snowe and
Scott Brown to help them muster the needed 60 votes in the
100-member Senate. Brown said on Monday, “I expect to support
the bill when it comes up for a vote.”

“At this point, I don’t know who will provide the 60 votes,
but we fully expect to get there,” a Democratic aide said.

Ethan Siegal of the Washington Exchange, a private firm
that tracks Washington for investors, said: “Bottom line: The
(bill) will pass the Senate and become law.”

SUPREME COURT

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan won bipartisan
praise at her Senate confirmation hearing that ended with
members of both parties predicting she will be confirmed.

Regardless, expect all but a few of the Senate’s 41
Republicans to line up against the former Harvard law school
dean and Clinton White House lawyer. Many already have,
including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Kagan seems certain to be confirmed by a smaller margin
than Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. She
was approved by the Senate last year, 68-31. She would replace
retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who had been the court’s
leading liberal. Kagan is not expected to change the
ideological balance of the sharply divided court, which has a
conservative majority.

IMMIGRATION

Obama recently delivered a major address on the need for
U.S. immigration reform — despite little, if any, chance
Congress will pass such legislation this year.

Obama has been under pressure to keep a 2008 campaign vow
to revamp the U.S. immigration system, but has been unable to
muster needed bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A sprawling bill could be before the full Senate late this
month.

Details are still being worked on, but the measure may
encourage the use of more alternative energy, reduce carbon
dioxide emissions blamed for global warming and tighten
offshore oil drilling practices in the wake of BP’s Gulf of
Mexico oil spill.

It is still unclear is how far the global-warming part of
the bill will go. There is speculation it might force electric
power utilities to begin reducing their carbon emissions in
2013 and leave other parts of the economy — such as factories
— for later. The difficulty will be finding the 60 votes
needed to pass a bill with such mandatory pollution
reductions.

DEFICIT REDUCTION

With polls showing mounting voter anger about the $13
trillion federal debt, members of Congress sound increasingly
interested in finally doing something about it.

Yet lawmakers are likely to put off any serious effort
until at least after Obama’s deficit-cutting commission issues
its recommendations in December.

Options — none of which would be very popular in an
election year — include raising taxes, cutting spending or
most likely a combination of both.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Like many legislative efforts the past two years, the
Democratic-led House approved a campaign finance reform bill
last month largely along party lines.

The White House-backed measure now faces an uphill climb in
the Senate where Republicans voice confidence that they will
stop it with still another procedural roadblock.

Critics argue the measure would violate freedom of speech.

But proponents hope to win Senate passage, noting polls
show broad public support for the bill’s central aim:
unprecedented disclosure of campaign financing.

JOBLESS BENEFITS

Senate Democrats expect to pass legislation to extend
jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed once a successor
is appointed and sworn in to replace the late Senator Robert
Byrd.

Byrd’s death on June 28 left fellow Democrats a vote short
of breaking a Republican-led filibuster against the measure.

A replacement for Byrd is expected to join the Senate
shortly after lawmakers return on Monday from a weeklong
recess.

The House passed such legislation last month but it was
stopped in the Senate amid complaints its $34 billion price tag
would add to the record federal deficit.

JOB CREATION

Democrats know their own jobs are very much on the line in
the November election unless they can reduce the near
double-digit U.S. unemployment rate.

Consequently, they have passed a number of bills designed
to create jobs. But these measures have all been relatively
small ones.

Senate Republicans have blocked efforts to pass sweeping
and costly jobs legislation, complaining that would swell the
federal deficit.

Senate Democrats are guardedly hopeful, however, that they
will be able to win passage of a bill to create a $30 billion
fund aimed at encouraging community banks to lend to small
businesses with the aim of boosting economic growth and job
creation.

TAXES

The Senate is likely to try to pass a stalled jobs bill
that would extend a package of popular business and individual
tax breaks. The bill, which has been blocked by Senate
Republicans, also includes a provision that would raise taxes
on private investment fund managers.

The House could consider legislation temporarily extending
popular middle class tax breaks that are part of the expiring
tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush. Those tax
cuts expire at the end of this year. House Democrats, keeping
in line with Obama’s pledge not to raise middle class taxes,
plan at least a one year extension of tax breaks for families
making less than $250,000. The package would also provide a
two-year fix to ensure that millions of middle income earners
are not hit with alternative minimum tax, which originally was
meant for only the wealthiest people.

ARMS TREATY

Obama negotiated a new arms reduction treaty with Russia
and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry has
been trying for months to set the stage for a needed two-thirds
Senate majority vote to ratify it.

Kerry aims to have his committee vote on the pact before
the start of an August recess. “The expectation is that the
treaty will be ratified (by the full Senate), but timing is
unclear,” a party aide said, adding it could happen before or
after the November election.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Donna Smith;
Editing by Alistair Bell and Frances Kerry)

SCENARIOS-Obama to score few wins in U.S. Congress