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Expect big ideas in Obama second term — and big fights to make them happen

Updated: December 5, 2012 6:38AM

If President Barack Obama wins re-election, expect the Affordable Health Care Act, his health insurance overhaul, to be the law of the land.

But if Republicans take the House again, look for a fight as the president tries to put in place the specifics.

Prepare to see an Illinoisan as a U.S. Supreme Court contender. Plan also to see another run at an overhaul to immigration policies.

But expect push-back from anything that has a whiff of being too extreme for Republicans.

And don’t be surprised if, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Obama pushes for a climate change initiative wrapped into a broader energy policy.

These are just a few ways that political observers and experts predict the issues will play out if Obama ends up winning on Tuesday.

But much of the dynamic will depend on whether Obama has a strong Democratic congressional force to back him, or if he will face another term battling Republicans.

“I think the president needs to reach out to Republicans to find a way that [his health care plan] will not further harm the economy,” said Nick Kachiroubas, visiting assistant professor at DePaul University for the School of Public Service. Kachiroubas likened Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in that he had ideas for social policies but needed to find a way to work with the other side of the aisle to see them survive and thrive.

“It seems like this is his legacy, so to speak. Or part of what he considers to be his legacy,” Kachiroubas said of Obama’s health care plan.

Trey Grayson, director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, said there’s likely to be another round of negotiation on some details within the Affordable Health Care Act. He suspects that will be rolled into a big budget deal or the so-called grand bargain.

“It also means Obama worries about his legacy, that may cause him to negotiate differently than when he’s running for a another term,” Grayson said. “It’s an interesting dynamic.”

While lame ducks are usually considered weak, Obama will also have more flexibility to negotiate without the worry of political ramifications, Grayson said. Grayson said Obama will make another push at dealing with climate change as part of a broader clean energy policy. Unlike his opponent Mitt Romney, Obama has been resistant to the Keystone Pipeline, and coal-fired powerplant operators have complained he’s pushed too many regulations.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said another four years of Obama would start with a plan to reinvigorate the economy, though the senator said the administration has not shared specific details with him about what a recovery package might include.

“Very soon after the election, the president will step forward with a plan to deal with our deficit in a way that’s consistent with our economic recovery,” Durbin told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I believe just by the questions they’ve asked me, as part of the Gang of Eight, they are quietly putting together a challenge to this challenge, but it’s presumptuous to say anything until after the election.”

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson said he thinks there will be an immediate but temporary settlement “of the fiscal cliff issues,” with much of the work postponed until next year. “ You will see at least a postponement of those until the summer of 2013 to work out a grand bargain,” Thompson said.

Thompson said Obama will take another stab at immigration reform but he will have to come to the center to get anything passed.

“You’re going to see Republican control of the House continue,” he said. “Immigration is one of those policies, it needs to be reformed but in a rational, thoughtful way. That’s going to take time to negotiate … Republicans will resist anything they consider ‘radical’ by Obama.”

Durbin said a second Obama term also could mean he puts an Illinoisan on the U.S. Supreme Court, where analysts predict anywhere from one to three openings could occur during the next four years. Durbin singled out federal appeals Justices Diane Wood and Ann Claire Williams as viable nominees to the nation’s high court.

“There are many, many good people to be considered in Illinois,” Durbin said, predicting Obama would seek out nominees “in the mold of” Justices Klana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Durbin said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Obama’s old state Senate seatmate, also could be on a second-term list of potential Supreme Court nominees from Illinois. “She doesn’t have judicial experience, but she has such powerful credentials as attorney general, state senator and close friend of the president,” he said. “I’d certainly include her in any list.”

Contributing: Dave McKinney

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