ISPS Faculty Discuss a Policy Agenda for the Second Obama Administration

Blog contributor 
Graduate Student

On Tuesday, January 22, ISPS inaugurated a new series of workshops on public policy with a panel on the Obama administration’s policy agenda for the next four years.

Amanda Kowalski, Assistant Professor of Economics, spoke about what’s next for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act based on her research on the 2006 health care reforms in Massachusetts. She argued that employers will increase their coverage levels, contrary to expectations; that affordable coverage will become more widespread as healthier people join insurance pools; and that we should see improved access to primary care and reduced emergency room utilization.

Eleanor Neff Powell, Assistant Professor of Political Science, argued that the prospects for any kind of progress on major public policy issues is bleak, largely because of the lack of change in Washington following the 2012 election. She noted that the prospects for filibuster reform had improved, though, and that changes to the cloture threshold, the types of legislation not subject to the filibuster, and the ease with which a filibuster can be sustained are all on the table in current negotiations between Senate leaders.

Vesla M. Weaver, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Political Science, suggested that while immigration reform had a good chance of succeeding in the current political climate, most of the policy options under discussion—such as E-Verify and increased border security—display the same features as past efforts such as IRCA. That law may have actually encouraged illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. due to the increased difficulty of moving back and forth from their countries of origin as employment opportunities fluctuated. She also noted that the GOP has in recent years opposed anything resembling amnesty for illegal immigrants, complicating efforts to pave the path to citizenship favored by the Obama administration.

Though all three panelists expressed some skepticism at major changes in most policy areas at the federal level, they noted the many opportunities for action through the executive branch and at the state level.

The panel was moderated by Jacob S. Hacker, Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University.

Please note: ISPS’s next public policy workshop will be on Tuesday, February 26 at noon and will feature Dorian Warren, Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs and of Political Science at Columbia University.

Area of study 
Federal Government