The health care fight gave rise to the tea party movement, which propelled Republicans to capture control of the House in the 2010 election. The slow economic recovery — despite an $831 billion economic stimulus package Obama shepherded through Congress — provided additional fodder for critics, who focused the public's attention on the national debt.
For now, immigration reform is among the few issues gaining traction on Capitol Hill — and even its prospects are dicey. After an election in which Hispanics voted in droves for Obama and other Democrats, some Republicans are coming around to the idea that an overhaul will have to include more than securing the border with Mexico.
And that has given hope to millions of immigrants, legal and illegal, for what is possible in a second Obama term.
"I want to be a part of this country, and I want to finally see immigration reform pass," said a 44-year-old Essex woman who provided only her first name, Albertina, because she is in the country illegally after overstaying a visa. "I have faith that Obama is going to do this."
The possibility of bipartisan agreement on any domestic policy will hinge on how quickly Democrats and Republicans can resolve long-standing disagreements over spending. Some, like former Maryland Rep. Tom McMillen, are publicly pushing for a broad package of tax and entitlement reforms that would allow lawmakers to resolve the deficit issue rather than continuing to delay difficult decisions.
McMillen, a Democrat who represented Maryland's 4th Congressional District from 1987 to 1993, has joined a bipartisan coalition of business and political leaders called Fix the Debt that has advocated for a centrist approach on the budget.
The inability of Obama and Boehner to strike a grand bargain on taxes and entitlement — despite getting close, twice — has dampened hope in Washington for such a deal. But McMillen isn't giving up and said Congress shouldn't, either.
"Even though this process is … not pretty to watch, I'm optimistic that we, at the end of this process, will get the kind of comprehensive, long-term plan that we want," he said. "We are making progress."
Second term for Maryland
In addition to high-profile issues such as spending, guns and immigration, Maryland would be affected by a number of other measures expected during Obama's second term.
•Lawmakers are overdue to pass a long-term farm bill that could have implications for Chesapeake Bay restoration as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.
•Congress is likely to take another shot at reforming the U.S. Postal Service, which could affect whether dozens of post offices in the region remain open.
•Washington may take a more comprehensive approach to funding the federal government than is possible under the current stopgap budget, an effort that would affect federal employees and contractors based in the state.