President Obama’s first message to the new Republican majority tells you how the next two years will go

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Upon receiving his second and final midterm electoral thumping last November, President Obama vowed to work with the new Congress and its Republican majorities in both House and Senate. On Sunday, Obama reiterated his pledge:

“I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done,” Obama told reporters before leaving on his annual end-of-the-year holiday in Hawaii. “We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.”

But Tuesday, while the new Congress was being sworn in and voting for their caucus leadership, Obama sent his real message to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner: roughly, “GFY”:

“I can confirm that the president would not sign this [Keystone XL] bill,” Earnest said at a White House press briefing when asked about legislation set to advance in Congress this week that would greenlight the project.

It takes a lot of guts to project an image of bipartisanship, compromise, and utilitarian pragmatism and then threaten vetoes of bills that haven’t even been introduced. At least give them a day to put their names on the doors.

The good news is that Keystone XL is so broadly popular that it might get enough Democrat votes to override a veto. In November polling, 60% of voters support approval of the pipeline. In previous polling showing similar support, even 49% of Democrats support it. Their representatives in the previous Congress didn’t follow that lead - only 14 of the 55 Democrats in the Senate voted for the previous Keystone bill in November.

Ironically, most of those who did support that bill were moderate Democrats from red states who had just lost their reelection bids two weeks before. So while Republicans come into their own majority this week, they are joined by fewer but more liberal Democrats than the Senate has seen in years, making the actual prospects of a veto override simultaneously more and less likely.

Regardless of its vote prospects, President Obama’s threat to veto an overwhelmingly popular, job creating infrastructure project (like he’s constantly urging Congress to pass) on the very day the representatives he’s vowed to work with are sworn in is as clear a signal as any of how the next 2 years of the 114th Congress will go. The Republican majority will pass bill after bill, most with popular voter support, and the President will complain, threaten, and veto almost all of them. Gridlock forever!

UPDATE: Two days of the 114th Congress, and two veto threats from the President:


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