What to Expect From the 114th Congress

Very shortly all eyes will be on the 114th Congress to see how they are going to respond to the bold moves from President Obama. Kevin Drum summed up their dilemma this way:

GOP leaders had plans for January, but now they may or may not be able to do much about them. Instead, they’re going to have to deal with enraged tea partiers insisting that they spend time trying to repeal Obama’s actions. They can’t, of course, but they have to show that they’re trying.

Its important to note why they can’t repeal Obama’s actions. That is first of all because this President has been careful to recognize where he has constitutional authority and where Congress must act. He hasn’t crossed that line.

But perhaps even more importantly, the 2015 budget bill strips Republicans of their ability to hold the government hostage as their leverage in trying to force change on any of these matters for at least the next nine months. After that, we’ll be in full 2016 campaign mode and its unlikely Republicans will want to initiate a government shutdown leading into the November presidential election.

The only alternative for Republicans at this point is to attach a repeal of any of these policies to something the Democrats want done, for example, comprehensive immigration reform. But the really interesting thing is…if they do that, we’re back to the process of actual governing via negotiation. Oh my!!!!

At his year-end press conference, President Obama once again affirmed his commitment to an actual governing process between the legislative and executive branches of government.

We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans. And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter. We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen. And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.

But he also pointed out that he won’t be shy about employing his veto pen if Republican leadership tries to go it alone.

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me. If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no. And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.

What this all boils down to is that President Obama has given Congressional Republicans two options: govern or make yourselves irrelevant. In other words, “Please proceed, Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.