In an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard writes that Republican lawmakers "are likely to have the upper hand in 2015" despite several veto threats from President Barack Obama.
who has used his veto powers just two times since he took the office in 2009, warned the GOP during January he would call on those powers in 10 pieces of legislation. He has since threatened three more vetoes.
"Mr. Obama is in a contentious mood. He and the Democratic Party suffered a harsh defeat in November's midterm election, but the president is acting as if it never happened," Barnes writes in the Journal.
"He proposed a $4 trillion budget with increased spending and higher taxes — precisely what voters rejected in the election.
"Republicans, meanwhile, are off to a bumpy start in the new Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says they have a 'number problem.' They have 54 senators but need 60 votes to overcome Democratic filibusters. They failed to reach 60 — much less the two-thirds to override an Obama veto — in their effort to nullify Mr. Obama's executive order legalizing the status of five million immigrants. And they withdrew legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks when Republican women balked at the language on rape.
"Yet for all Mr. Obama's obstinacy, Republicans are likely to have the upper hand in 2015. In the struggle with the White House, Republicans are the tortoise, Mr. Obama the hare. His moment is now. The Republican agenda will play out from the spring to the fall."
Barnes makes the argument that the GOP is trying to focus on two goals now that it controls both chambers on Capitol Hill: Laying the foundation for a Republican to win the presidential election next year and forcing Obama "to choose between vetoing or signing popular bills."
Barnes also calls out the tactics used by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who allowed voting on just 15 amendments last year. Nearly everything that got through the Republican-controlled House ran into a blockade led by Reid.
But with the Democrats losing the majority in the Senate chamber after November's midterms, Reid was demoted and McConnell took his majority leader position. There were 41 amendments voted on while the Senate debated the Keystone XL oil pipeline bill last month, according to Barnes.
The biggest improvement to this new Congress, writes Barnes, is the fact that lawmakers are debating individual spending bills that are part of the overall federal budget — something Reid would not allow.
"The budget process is vital to the Republicans' strategy," Barnes writes. "They plan to attach popular amendments to the individual spending bills — amendments they like but Mr. Obama won't. If the president vetoes, say, funds for education or transportation because he dislikes a conservative attachment, that's fine. Republicans expect that he'll suffer politically.
"A senior GOP aide calls this 'a smart veto strategy.' It would clarify differences between Republicans and Mr. Obama. And it would lead to a role reversal, with Republicans as conscientious policy advocates and Mr. Obama as obstructionist-in-chief. He is already on his way to becoming President 'No:' His 13 veto threats in the first six weeks of 2015 were stunning. In Bill Clinton's final two years in office, he vetoed a total of 12 bills; President George W. Bush vetoed a mere 10 in his final two years."
Barnes concludes that if Republicans stick to their guns and don't back down in the face of Obama's threats, they will be successful in their efforts.
Among Obama's veto threats are actions that would repeal the Affordable Care Act,
legislation that would approve of the Keystone pipeline,
and bills that would block his executive action on immigration.
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