One widely publicized Democratic lament during Obama’s first term was that health care reform had led off the White House’s agenda, subsuming in its toxicity other campaign promises. The unrealized climate-change bill is testament to that complaint and may again be left behind in the second term.

But White House officials say that Obama, believing himself schooled in the intractability of Hill Republicans, is more determined to use the bully pulpit and his electoral mandate to push his own agenda. And if Republicans think they can hamstring that agenda, more power to them as they struggle to deal with their own conference’s internal friction.

“If the president is going to fight for more progressive policies, which he seems inclined to do, then you’re going to see the ‘rending pain of reenactment,’ ” said Raben, borrowing a phrase from T.S. Eliot. “If they want to do the debt ceiling every two or three months, you’re going to see the same thing over and over again.”