I just saw Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln." After 30 minutes, I was struck by the similarities to today's political arena. Lincoln similarly dealt with a willing Senate but a polarized House. In 1865, the issue was emancipation; today, it's the budget, tax issues and the "fiscal cliff."
During the eight years prior to Lincoln's election in 1860, Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan caved to the strong political influence that feared the loss of plantation slaves would drastically hurt the economy of the South. (Today, it's Bush tax cuts versus claims that raising tax rates for upper-income earners will hurt the economy).
The film focuses on Lincoln's push to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. The Senate did, but the House declined. Lincoln was able to achieve compromise in the House through several congressmen who voted their conscience about what was morally "right" as opposed to their party line.