Obama vows to use ‘veto pen’ in battle with Congress
Obama said with the Republican controlled Congress he expects to spend his next two years in office blocking attempts to thwart his domestic reforms. Specifically he said he would defend the gains made on environment, clean air, clean water, immigration and in healthcare.
“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, in a conversation recorded before he left for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii.
In his 2014 State of the Union address Obama pledged to use his “pen and phone” to circumvent Congress and seek alternatives to legislation. During his time in office he has issued 195 executive orders and 198 presidential memoranda – which carry the same legal force as executive orders, according to USA Today. These include executive orders to give federal employees the day after Christmas off, to impose economic sanctions and to determine how national secrets are classified. He's used presidential memoranda to make policy on gun control, immigration and labor regulations. One of the most recent was to declare Bristol Bay, Alaska, off-limits to oil and gas exploration.
When the Senate Democrats lost badly in the November midterm elections and gave the Republicans control of both the Senate and House, it made the prospect of a fight back is more than likely. The White House can fight back legislation trying to overturn Obama’s reforms but not if there is a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress.
“The moves like the Cuba diplomatic initiative are ones that I want to make sure I continue to pursue partly because, frankly, it’s easier for a president to do at the end of his term than a new president coming in,” Obama told NPR.
He added: “I’m in a position now where, with the economy relatively strong, with us having lowered the deficit, with us having strong growth and job growth, for the first time us starting to see wages ticking up, with inflation low, with energy production high – now I have the ability to focus on some long-term projects, including making sure that everybody is benefiting from this growth and not just some.”
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Obama is concerned about the opportunity to find compromise with Republicans on issues like immigration and told NPR he could not work with “nativists” who oppose reform efforts.
Opposing those efforts are attorney generals in 25 states, led by Texas who has filed a lawsuit against Obama’s executive order on immigration reform. The case will receive its first hearing in January.
Friends of the Court briefs have been filed by 68 members of Congress supporting the lawsuit’s claim that Obama executive order violated the Constitution overstepping limits of presidential powers.
There is also likely to be contention over legislation for the XL Keystone Pipeline which President Obama said in a year end talk with reporters didn’t benefit Americans.