While most of the political press was beating its collective baloney over the white House’s failure to send a sufficiently large cheese to this weekend’s unity rally in Paris, the foreseeable future of legislative action in the United States came into focus a bit more. The House of Representatives has introduced a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the remainder of the fiscal year, and if the bill doesn’t pass, the agency’s funding will run out on Feb. 27. House Republicans have begun to add amendments in order to gut President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, essentially holding Homeland Security funding hostage in exchange for these concessions.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest opened Monday’s White House briefing by slamming the GOP effort to “muck around with that legislation,” and when asked point-blank, confirmed that the president will veto any attempt to weaken his immigration policy:
Q: “(S)o the president would veto this legislation that the House has assembled?”
Josh Earnest: “Well, we’ve made clear, dating back to last fall, that the president would oppose any legislative effort to undermine the executive actions that he took to add greater accountability to our immigration system. So, yes.”
You can add that veto threat to the recently-reaffirmed threat to block any legislation forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and his threat to veto a bill that would delay implementation of the Volcker Rule.
That last one is already dead in the water, having failed to secure the two-thirds majority required to pass it under a suspension of House rules. That’s especially good news for proponents of financial regulatory reform, or rather, news that could have been worse. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law was already dealt a serious blow during negotiations on the lame duck “Cromnibus” bill, so all this does is prevent that law, already passed and signed by duly-elected officials, from being weakened further.
So, that’s the good news, that the American people will get to not lose three things they already have. The bad news is that Republicans never get tired of attacking Wall Street reform, and in the new era of “compromise,” they’ve secured a second straight victory on that front. At that same briefing, Earnest announced that the president will sign the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015:
“The president will sign that bill. We have made clear our disappointment that on this critically important piece of legislation, legislation that’s good for our economy and good for national security, it included a rider that would try to water down one element of Wall Street reform. And that’s certainly something that we are not happy about. But again, in this era of trying to compromise, the president on occasion is going to have to sign important pieces of legislation that aren’t 100 percent to his liking.”
Earnest and Obama keep using that word, I do not think it means what they think it means. “Compromise” means one side gets some of what they want, and the other side gets some of what they want, but the “Terrorism Risk Insurance Program” is not a Democratic priority, it’s an everyone priority. This isn’t a compromise, it is a concession in exchange for nothing, for passing something that Republicans want, too.
The provision that Earnest is referring to would gut margin requirements in Dodd-Frank, and was blasted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during the Cromnibus debate when Republicans tried to pass it off as something it wasn’t. Warren tried to strip the provision out of this bill in the Senate, but was unable to muster the necessary 60 votes. Although they weren’t the deciding factor, there were 13 Democrats who voted against Warren’s amendment, along with every Republican.
The overall bill passed the Senate by a 93-4 vote, so chances are a presidential veto would not have held up, but this handful of legislation, along with Obama’s own newfound mojo, gives you a good idea of what the next two years will be like: a lot of running in place, with an occasional hop back.