A divided Congress will collide in 2011

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is bracing for rough seas when Congress convenes in January.

With a Republican majority looking to reverse key Obama administration policies, Sherman said he foresees several clashes.

"I expect it to be contentious," Sherman said on election night, as he breezed past Republican opponent Mark Reed to earn his eighth term representing the west San Fernando Valley.

"I think one of the first problems will be in February or March," he said. "That will be the time at which the debt limit will need to be increased."

In recent years, both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought increases in the debt limit, a move that is necessary for the Treasury Department to borrow money and pay its bills despite a growing national deficit. In January, the limit was raised by $1.9 billion to its current level, $14.3 billion.

Observers say global markets would be rattled and the federal government would face a spike in the interest it pays on its obligations if the limit isn't increased.

"Traditionally, the majority party is supposed to put up the votes to do that," Sherman said. "But those who wish to get 'tea party' support may vote against increasing debt limit. There might even be an attempt to put in poison pills to make it impossible for the president to sign it."

Incoming House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said his party will seek significant spending cuts before agreeing to raise the limit. Sherman said he worried about a government shutdown if negotiations falter.

"Unless there is a real demand for compromise from voters of the country, Washington will be looking as dysfunctional as Sacramento did a few months ago," he said.

Sherman joins foes of trade imbalance

At least one legislative priority for Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) might get better play with Republican control of the House of Representatives than it did when his own party held the majority.

Sherman, who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has proposed China be stripped of its status as a most favored nation. The status offers designated countries lower tariffs and barriers to trade with the U.S. than it would otherwise face.

Sherman has criticized China for encouraging the gaping trade imbalance between the two nations and shaping monetary policy to make matters more lopsided.

The legislation may remain a long shot, but Sherman said the change of leadership might give it more serious consideration.

"I think we'll have very interesting hearings of the Foreign Affairs Committee because (incoming chair) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) believes in being even tougher on China and she's co-sponsored my bill to draw a line in the sand with regard to [most-favored nation status]," Sherman said.

He credited former Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) for his leadership, and said the heat might also be turned up for sanctions against Iran for its apparent efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

"Howard has been a leader and a partner in trying to put sanctions in Iran, and Ileana is at least as strong," Sherman said.

Schiff looks to middle for bipartisan bill

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), headed back for a sixth term in Congress after topping Republican challenger John Colbert, struck a conciliatory note in the wake of the national election results.