He Said He Would…And He Did!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Ever since the GOP secured a majority in the U.S. Senate in the November 4, 2014 General Election, to match the advantage they already enjoyed in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans have made it clear they would pass a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Yesterday, they made the promise a fait accompli. With a resolve to match the GOP’s relentless push, President Obama made it equally clear he would veto such a bill. To that end, he kept his end of the bargain yesterday.

The Houses of Congress spent a significant portion of the first two months of the year prepping for was a near certain outcome yesterday. The Senate, by a roll call vote of 62-36, moved to approve its bill Thursday, January 29, 2015. In summary, 53 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted for the bill. Voting in opposition were 34 Democrats and 2 Independents. No Republicans voted against the measure.

On Wednesday, February 11, 2015, the House took up the Senate bill and approved the measure by a vote of 270 to 152. The bill garnered the support of 29 Democrats. One GOP Representative, Justin Amash, of Michigan, voted against the bill. That action of the House completed the preliminary steps of preparing the bill for the President’s review.

The process came full circle, apparently quickly. Congress sent the measure to President Obama yesterday. He returned to sender, using his Veto authority for the first time in five years, and only the third time during his Presidency.

Counting yesterday’s veto, you have to go back 134 years, to James A. Garfield, the 20th President, to find a President with fewer vetoes than President Obama. He had no vetoes, but served just over six months in office, as his Presidency lasted only 199 days, from March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881. Charles J. Guiteau shot him July 2, 1881. Garfield died two and a half months later. Only William Henry Harrison served less time as an American President. Harrison, who died of pneumonia, served only 32 days. Not surprisingly, he was also among the seven Presidents who never used the veto. Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President also died prematurely, after only a year and a half in office, without ever using the veto. Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth President, served Zachary Taylor’s unexpired term, and never used the veto.

To provide a little veto context, seven Presidents, the second, John Adams, third Thomas Jefferson, fifth James Monroe, ninth William Henry Harrison, twelfth Zachary Taylor, thirteenth Millard Fillmore, and the twentieth James Garfield never used the veto. Of those, Harrison, Taylor, and Garfield died after short terms in office, and Fillmore completed Taylor’s term. Of the remaining thirty-six Presidents other than Mr. Obama, only George Washington, the first President (2), James Monroe, the fifth President (1), and Martin Van Buren, the eighth President (1), used the veto less than President Obama has to date. The eleventh President, James K. Polk also used his veto pen three times.

This however, may be just the beginning of President Obama’s veto use. He has already signaled his unwillingness to simply accept proposed GOP legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act, as well as bills reversing the executive action he has taken on immigration.

Early indications are GOP legislators will be unable to reverse the President’s veto. The threshold for overriding a President’s veto is a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already announced the veto override vote occur no later than next Tuesday.

Pipeline advocates, including Republican leadership in Congress argue the Keystone would create jobs; opponents meanwhile contend the potential environmental risks are not worth it. For its part, the Whitehouse says they oppose the measure because it usurps the President’s authority to approve or deny the pipeline. The project has been under administrative review for a number of years.

Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary notes that it is still conceivable President Obama may approve the pipeline at the completion of State Department review. In the interim, the President has downplayed the economic benefits of the pipeline. He underscored that point in the State of the Union Address, when he said: “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,”

For their part, Republican Legislators said yesterday the expected veto sets a sour tone for further cooperation. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in a USA Today op-ed, “This White House refuses to listen and look for common ground. It’s the same kind of top-down, tone deaf leadership we’ve come to expect and we were elected to stop.”

In other words, it appears, the long winter of our political discontent continues. What we know for sure is, when it comes to the Keystone XL Pipeline, “He Said He Would…And He Did!”

I’m done; holla back!

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