President Barack Obama has characterized himself as the father figure in the continuing argument between bickering sides of Congress. He has made concessions and attempted to compromise with the House of Representatives and Senate Republicans, but his diplomatic efforts have borne little fruit.
After his latest jobs proposal, Obama has signaled that it is time to turn the tables on the Republicans by threatening to veto any “one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable” during his Rose Garden speech Monday, according to the New York Times.
Furthermore, he said he will not cut Medicare benefits until taxes are raised on the country’s corporations and wealthiest members.
It is hardly surprising that Obama has lost patience with the Republicans. What is surprising is that he hadn’t taken a hard stance earlier, perhaps during the health care reform or the debt ceiling crisis. Since the 2010 midterm elections, the new tea party conservative order has pushed the president into a corner. He tried to talk his way out of this corner by offering tax cut concessions during the debt ceiling deal. According to The Hill, the debt ceiling was raised by $2.8 trillion, but Congress also attached $2.8 trillion in cuts over 10 years without raising taxes. With deals like that, it’s understandable why Republicans thought they had control over Obama.
Threatening to veto legislation is a powerful tool. During the budget crisis in the mid-1990s, former President Bill Clinton used the veto to combat Republican efforts. According to the Seattle Times, Clinton accused the Republicans of synthesizing a budget crisis to further their spending priorities over Democratic spending priorities.
The bill would have limited the Treasury Department’s ability to fund the government in a borrowing crisis. It also would have reduced environmental and health regulations, and imposed a balanced budget for seven years. “This is not the time or the place for them to backdoor their budget proposals,” Clinton said, according to the Times.
Obama is in a similar situation to Clinton with the Republicans.Watching former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich oppose another Democratic president again on the same issue gives a sense of dj vu. His political situation is not currently suited to compromise – the Republicans have the upper hand and they know it. They will never compromise with him while they believe they can extract more political concessions.
The president has been the tolerant father trying to console politicians in opposition to him. Now he must be the father that punishes politicians who continually disrespect and misbehave. The worst the vetoes will do is add another stage of deadlock, which already is rampant in Congress. Reminding the Republicans that they are not all-powerful will give a jolt to the political process.