Obama readies veto pen and the new paradigm of obstructionism

When we think of “news” regarding the President in late December, one word comes to mind: golf. But Barack Obama took some time out between rounds on the links to chat with the press, and he had a special message for congressional Republicans. Don’t get your hopes up, guys. I’ve still got this veto pen.

Warning from President Barack Obama to congressional Republicans: I have a veto pen and, come January, I won’t be afraid to use it.

Since taking office in 2009, Obama has only vetoed legislation twice, both in fairly minor circumstances. But with Republicans set to take full control of Congress next year, Obama is losing his last bulwark against a barrage of bills he doesn’t like: the Senate.

“I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office,” Obama said in an NPR interview airing Monday. “Now, I suspect, there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out.”

He added: “I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made in health care. I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made on environment and clean air and clean water.”

This is the prelude to what some of us have been waiting for throughout the 2014 election cycle, as I’ve written about here previously. While control of the upper chamber was clearly desirable for the GOP, it never heralded the dawn of a new era of conservative legislation suddenly winging its way into law. The days of bipartisan cooperation on major legislative packages are, for all intents and purposes, gone. Some of us may find that to be a feature rather than a bug. (For the last examples of such times, just think of Medicare Part D under President Bush in the 2003 – 2006 sessions.)

It appears that the only way “things get done” in a big way is if we have one party in control of both chambers and the White House. Failing that, we have gridlock and the constant media chants of obstructionism! The problem with this from the GOP perspective is that the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) have done such an excellent job of conveying to the public the impression that only the House – under control of Republicans – was responsible for the log jam. Now, once the new members are seated, Congress will be able to do their job and “get things done” in terms of passing desired legislation. The only remaining path of obstructionism resides in that pen that Barack Obama is waiving about in a menacing fashion.

I have no doubt that he will use it. But when he does, how will the media spin the lack of progress by our elected officials as the fault of the GOP? That may be too much of a trick even for them. So we will have two solid years during a presidential election cycle where Obama will stand alone, jamming up the works and preventing the federal government from doing anything. Rather than the Do Nothing Congress, we will have the era of the Do Nothing Presidency. And Republican candidates – both for Congress and the Presidency – would be foolish indeed to pass up this opportunity to remind the nation precisely which party it is that is stopping the business of the people from being accomplished.

These past midterm elections were far from meaningless. In the long game, they might be exactly what the GOP needed to hobble Hillary or whoever the Democrats wind up nominating.

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