Keep the bills coming
President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline on February 24 would normally elicit nonstop media attention. Relative to the normal day-to-day work in Congress, it still did, but the story was buried under a pile of other issues this week, chiefly the Department of Homeland Security funding and its role in enforcing Obama’s controversial executive order on immigration.
Keystone had more bipartisan support than many major bills going before the legislature these days, with 29 Democratic representatives and 9 Democratic senators voting in its favor. Yet, to placate environmental interests (rather than the consumers and job-seekers), Obama opted to block the bill from becoming law. Hoping to further consolidate power at the White House, he suggested that the act “conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest – including our security, safety, and environment.” The pipeline has little chance of becoming law, now needing support from two thirds of lawmakers in the House and the Senate.
Perhaps gas at $4.00 a gallon would have provoked more scrutiny and forced the president’s hand?
Nonetheless, this bill can be a model for the next two years – part of a larger plan to take back the White House in 2016. In the fall, when Republicans won large majorities in Congress, a new strategy was needed – one of action and results. The tactics of the last few years alienated voters, and, whether based in fact or not, much of that blame shifted to Republicans.
But now is the time to act. Republicans were given an opportunity in 2014 to command the playing field for the next few years, putting Democrats on the defensive. But they have to do it intelligently.
Continue to focus on policy; continue to focus on rallying bipartisan support; continue to sell these ideas to the American people. Most citizens understand lower gas prices and energy security. Environmental interests should be tougher to sell.
Naturally, similar bills may inspire the reflexive use of the veto pen by the president, but it is important to force him into this position. Even if there’s no chance of overriding the veto, paint the Democrats as obstructionist.
Each additional vetoed bill is ammunition in 2016 – not only for the presidential candidates, but also for all Republican legislators. The GOP cannot continue looking backward. Show us that you can govern; show us that you can present a clear vision for the country. We don’t need grandstanding or gimmicks; we need leaders. The emphasis on public policy and not politics will be recognized and rewarded in 2016, so keep the bills coming.