A funny thing happened on the way to President Barack Obama’s nirvana of one-man rule. Just as he was trying to build some momentum behind his executive orders while taunting Congress with an onslaught of veto threats, House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, gave the president a reality check.
Obama is insistent that Congress refrain from passing any further sanctions on Iran because he believes such a move could derail the White House’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. The president has faced criticism – most notably from Sen. Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, – for what appears to be his willingness to accommodate Iran. But when Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next month without telling the White House, he sent a strong message. Boehner’s action essentially vetoed the president’s plan to acquiesce to Iran.
Obama may think he can govern around Congress, but he will learn that if pushed, Congress can also do some governing around him. He has just gotten his first taste.
The president may be testing the limits of executive power, forcing Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to lead their co-equal branch of government and creatively test their own limits of power, both on foreign and domestic policy. It may not be healthy for our democracy, but there is no question about who started it.
And don’t forget, thanks to the actions of Sen. Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, McConnell now has veto power over just about every executive branch nominee. Don’t expect the Republican majority to undo Reid’s filibuster rule change anytime soon. In fact, McConnell is reportedly considering getting rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees as well. You reap what you sow.
Anyway, Obama is not the only person with “veto power” in Washington. Boehner can wield a “virtual veto” on many things, and McConnell can veto most executive nominations. There has been a lot of smug talk about Obama’s recent uninhibited, freewheeling attitude as he deals with Congress. But maybe the people at the White House will think twice about the president’s veto-heavy approach after they brush up on their civics and fully digest what the Netanyahu visit might portend for the remaining two years of the president’s term.