Q. What use is a pile of vetoes?
A. Enough to win the next election.
The seminal moment President Clinton’s move to the center came on April 7, 1995 in a speech to the Newspaper Editors and Publishers in Dallas where he proclaimed that he was not elected president to amass a “pile of vetoes.” That wisdom stood in good stead for a president bent on moving to the center. But President Obama seems intent on creating a pile of vetoes of legislation passed by the new Republican Congress. These vetoes will reshape the issues for the 2016 election, hamstring the Democratic candidate, and subject yet another crop of Democratic Senators to annihilation.
For all his perversity, Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., has reduced the possible carnage among his senators by refusing to allow votes on most bills coming over from the Republican House. So his senators never have to cast unpopular votes which can be used to haunt them in future negative ads. Similarly, he has protected President Obama from having to veto bills, which enjoy broad public support.
Some bills may not get the 60 votes needed to reach the president’s desk. But with another crop of vulnerable senators coming up for re-election, it will be hard to hold 41 of the Party’s remaining 46 senators in line against legislation that commands broad public backing. On the Keystone Pipeline, for example, the chances of getting 60 votes to send the bill to Obama’s desk look pretty good.
And, if the 60-vote threshold proves too difficult to meet, the Republicans can always take a page from Harry Reid’s playbook and change the rules in the middle of the game to eliminate the filibuster and require only a 51-vote majority in the Senate.
Then there will be nothing to shield Democratic Senators or the president from having to take politically unpalatable positions, particularly when the bills come back, after a veto, for an override attempt.
The fact is that, apart from Clinton, no Democratic president has had to face the necessity of vetoing popular bills passed by an opposition Congress since Truman. And Clinton’s approach was not to veto but to negotiate.
The pile of legislation the House and Senate will pass in the opening months of 2015 are the de facto Republican platform for 2016. And the vetoes themselves, however unwillingly, are the turf the 2016 Democratic nominee must defend.
Can Hillary squirm out of it? Not with almost all of the Democratic Senators banding together to sustain presidential vetoes.
She’s stuck with the positions her president and her Party’s senators take.
Let Hillary, or whoever is the Democratic candidate, defend a veto of pending legislation to raise the definition of full time work in ObamaCare to 40 hours, a measure ardently supported by the AFL-CIO. Let her have to explain why she favors creating an incentive for employers to force their workers to cut their workweeks to 29 hours.
The flexibility that any presidential candidate needs to adjust and shift positions to accommodate the political needs she faces will be denied her. The Senate votes and the presidential vetoes will force her to take positions she may wish to avoid.
The legislation of 2015 is the agenda for the election of 2016.
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