In November, President Obama and his administration repeated;y hinted that he would veto any legislation to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, but confounded the political press by refusing to make an explicit veto threat. Despite a late attempt by doomed then-Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the 113th Congress failed to pass a bill approving the pipeline, and Obama spent a few minutes at his year-end press conference dancing on the bill's grave.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the new Republican Congress' first stab at passing a Keystone bill, and Earnest made no bones about the president's intentions this time:
"This legislation is not altogether different than legislation that was introduced in the last Congress, and you'll recall that we put out a statement of administration position indicating that the president would have vetoed had that bill passed the previous Congress. I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn't sign it either."
Earnest was asked about the Keystone veto threat several more times, telling one reporter that he had not heard of, nor had any comment on, any possible deal involving Keystone approval as a bargaining chip, and clarified that the threat applied to both the House and Senate versions of the bill, which he said were identical, as far as the White House knows.
While Earnest reiterated the president's well-known skepticism about the possible benefits of the pipeline, and repeated the veto threat five or six times, he also let careful listeners know that the door is open to a future deal on Keystone. Asked if the president's objection is based more on the substance of the project, rather than the process of skirting the State Department, Earnest was very clear that while the president doesn't love the Keystone project, it's only the latter that is the deal-breaker:
"The administration would withhold broader judgment on the project itself, although you could note our skepticism about some of the claims made by the most enthusiastic advocates of the pipeline, and note that our principal objection, right now, to this legislation moving forward is that it undermines a well-established process that has succeeded so many times in the past, including in previous administrations, to ensure that we are carefully and properly evaluating whether or not a particular infrastructure project is actually in the interests of the United States of America."
That response leaves wide open the possibility that Keystone could be used as a bargaining chip down the line, which, depending on what they get for it, is fine with me. If John Boehner is willing to trade 50 whole jobs for a minimum wage hike, I'm there.
Earnest also confirmed that the White House will veto a proposed change to the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate that would change the definition of a full-time employee from one who works a minimum of 30 hours a week to 40. Early indications are that Republicans plan to send lots of garbage to the president's desk, including a measure called the "Hire More Heroes Act" that actually enables employers not to give military veterans health insurance.
In case you were wondering how the new Congress is going to work with Obama, Politico's Glenn Thrush has a great reminder of just how disgraceful and disrespectful these people can be:
Boehner, the pitchman who values listening, considers Obama too senatorial, a smart guy who lectures. Two former House leadership staffers who spent a lot of time around the speaker say it is not uncommon for Boehner to roll his eyes during one of Obama’s long spiels, set down the receiver on his desk with Obama’s muffled voice still droning over the line—as the speaker lights another Camel or gestures to an aide to hand him a file.
Without skipping a beat, he will pick up the phone just in time to register a standard “uh-huh” or “I’m not sure about that, Mr. President.”
And that's the guy who's supposed to corral the real assholes in Congress. Can you imagine if one of them were Speaker?