The Democrats’ Last Defense: Obama’s Pen

Ever since the November election, things haven’t looked so good for liberals of the United States. With a Republican majority taking over the Senate in addition to the House this January, rightwing ideology is sure to dominate congressional votes for the next two years. Nevertheless, hope is not entirely lost for the left. With a Democrat still in the White House, President Barack Obama has the power to veto legislations – and he claims he’s not afraid to use it.

In fact, Obama is taking an offensive position by preemptively reminding Republicans of his authority to veto. “I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out,” he told NPR.

Given how many times Congress attempted to overturn the Affordable Care Act without even having a majority, it’s reasonable to expect that Obamacare is now especially vulnerable. The moderate environmental legislation that the president has overseen is also certainly at risk, too.

Fortunately, those are the kinds of things that Obama should be able to protect with the veto. Though Republicans have the majority in both legislative bodies, it’s not so strong that it can override a veto unless conservatives can swing some Democrats over to their side on a particular issue as well. It’s nice to know that Obama has a line of defense that should be able to protect some of the only victories he’s secured while in office, at least for a couple more years.

Hearing that Obama is prepared to use his presidential veto is comforting, especially since he’s only used it twice throughout his entire presidency. To be fair, up until this point, he hasn’t really had to rely on the veto since Democrats have had more significant control in Congress.

The only real time Obama used the veto was to squash a seemingly insignificant bill about notarizations. The president seemed to be concerned – probably correctly – that this was big bank-backed legislation in disguise making it easier to fudge mortgage documents and screw homeowners. The second occasion was a “procedural” veto nullifying a temporary defense funding bill to make way for a real defense funding bill the legislators passed soon after.

It will be interesting to watch whether or not Obama will rely heavily on his veto in the two years ahead. He’ll inevitably face a lot of scrutiny if he rejects too much conservative legislation. Of course, given the Republicans’ previous tactic of stonewalling the president’s agenda, giving them a taste of their own medicine might not be entirely out of line.

Beyond non-negotiable issues like health care and climate change, don’t expect Obama to start willy-nilly vetoing everything. The president has also expressed optimism that the parties can tackle some bipartisan issues like job plans, international trade agreements and improvements to certain tax policies.