Washington (CNN) – Two months into the new year, Congress is at a standstill, stuck in party-line votes, heated debates and electoral politics.
And there's no indication that will change before mid-term elections in November, political observers say: Democrats are afraid to take chances on anything that might alienate voters, and Republicans can stand pat and hope the anti-incumbent mood brewing in the country will help weaken Democrats' control of Congress.
"The problem is the combination of highly ideologically polarizing political parties operating at sort of near parity," said Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.
With many members of Congress in tough re-election fights this year - and bitter fighting between the two parties - key legislative items such as health care and climate change go nowhere, said Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor.
"Worried members of Congress are often distracted by their opponents' campaigns," he said. "They start thinking of every tough vote they must cast as a potential campaign commercial to be used against them."