In a recent interview with NPR, President Obama said that he suspects he will be using his “veto pen” more frequently once the Republicans take over Congress in January.
“I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office, partly because legislation that I objected to was typically blocked in the Senate even after Republicans took over the House,” Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep.
“Now I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out,” he continued. “And I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made in healthcare; I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made on environment and clean air and clean water.”
Obama’s suspicions are well-founded. Following a Republican sweep in the mid-term elections, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was unanimously voted Senate Majority Leader. Just days after his re-election, McConnell told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his top priority once back in office will be to “try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”
This is not surprising, given that Kentucky is the third-largest producer of coal in the United States. This past summer, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a landmark proposal to reduce carbon emissions in the country by 30 percent, which would necessitate major changes and cutbacks in the U.S. coal industry. This has mobilized McConnell and other coal-favoring Congress members to effectively declare war on the EPA.
Part of this war includes putting noted climate change denier Jim Inhofe (R-OK) at the head of the Senate Environment Committee, a position that, on its face, seems at odds with Inhofe’s anti-science beliefs. This is a man who has not only said no scientific evidence for global warming exists but also that God will not allow man to change the climate anyway.
So will Obama have cause to veto new Republican legislation in the coming years? Much of the evidence points to yes.
However, the President is also aware that his six years in office have finally begun to bear fruit for the American people, and Republicans cannot be ignorant of that. It may allow the two political forces to compromise in the post-January world.
As the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson recently pointed out, under Obama’s leadership, the economy has grown by five percent in the last quarter, following 4.5 percent second-quarter growth; unemployment is down 5.8 percent; over five million jobs have been added to the economy; the DOW is over 18,000; and gas prices are averaging $2.29 per gallon nationwide.
“For years, a central tenet of the Republican argument has been that on economic issues, Obama is either incompetent or a socialist,” writes Robinson. “It should have been clear from the beginning that he is neither, given that he rescued an economy on the brink of tipping into depression […] The numbers we’re seeing now, however, make these charges of incompetence and/or socialism untenable. Even the Affordable Care Act — which Republicans still claim to want to repeal — turned out not to be the job killer that critics imagined.”
Obama is currently in a stronger position to defend his policies than he’s ever been. How that might translate to making legitimate headway in global and domestic climate change policy remains to be seen.
And, despite his economic victories, Robinson himself is the first to admit, “the GOP rarely lets the facts get in the way of a good story.”