One of the big questions for Congress in 2011, now that Republicans control the House while Democrats still hold the reins in the Senate, is what issues both parties might be able to jointly address.
While public opinion is not always the determining factor, given the politics of Capitol Hill, two actions on which there is a good amount of bipartisan agreement would be to pass a bill providing incentives to develop alt ernative energy and an overhaul of the tax code, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Jan. 14-16.
Gallup asked those surveyed about eight possible actions Congress could take this year (although, for some reason, the list did not include health care reform or efforts to repeal it).
The five actions that got majority support were doing something to encourage alternative energy solutions (83 percent), revamping the tax code (76 percent), speeding up the withdrawal from Afghanistan (72 percent), passing an energy bill expanding drilling and exploration for oil and gas (65 percent) and approving a free-trade agreement with South Korea (53 percent).
Passing stronger gun control laws, as some lawmakers proposed after the Arizona shooting tragedy, fell just short of a majority at 49 percent. Two possible actions regarding immigration -- taking steps to deny automatic citizenship to children born to illegal immigrant parents in the U.S. or providing a path to legal status for those here illegally -- ranked last, at 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively.
When it comes to how the results play out along partisan lines, the action where the results were the most similar was for overhauling the federal tax code, with support for that in the mid-to-high 70s for Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.
There is not as much agreement on passing an alternative energy bill, but it still gets decisive majorities across the political board. Ninety-three percent of Democrats favor action on this issue, compared to 82 percent of independents and 75 percent of Republicans.
The complication, of course, is that major energy legislation tends to be tied to other more contentious proposals, as "cap and trade" was last year. If a proposal for encouraging alternative energy was part of such a bigger bill, the other issues could sink it.
Some of the biggest Democratic-Republican divisions were on gun control laws and proposals to provide a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats favored strong gun control laws compared to 30 percent of Republicans, and 64 percent of Democrats supported giving illegals a path to legal status, compared to only 27 percent of Republicans.
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