Obama's Veto

[ Posted Thursday, October 7th, 2010 – 17:20 UTC ]

President Obama, for only the second time in his presidency, is about to veto a bill. And since the first veto was more of a technicality than actually a checks-and-balances action between the federal government's branches, this can honestly be said to be Obama's first true veto. Which makes it interesting, and newsworthy. And the politics involved are just as interesting, because the White House may be signaling a number of things for the immediate future.

Obama is vetoing a fairly obscure change in the law, which sped through the Senate suspiciously fast at the last minute before they adjourned. Because Obama will use the "pocket veto," Congress is likely going to have to start all over again with the bill (and fix the problems), and will not even have the chance to override the president.

But it's the politics of it all which are so interesting. Salon points out some of these implications, after noting the conspicuous language in the White House press release:

This is pure speculation -- but what we appear to be seeing here is the Obama administration pushing back against something that the banking industry wants and that Congress has rubber-stamped in a sudden hurry. And the White House is using the importance of consumer protection as the excuse. Sounds to me like Elizabeth Warren is already having an influence on White House policy. If so, that's worth a cheer, or two.

They do have a point, that the White House used variations on the phrase "consumer protections" repeatedly in their press release. This could indeed be a signal that Warren's influence is already beginning to be felt, which should definitely be worth one or two cheers. With Obama given the chance to shake up his economic team by recent vacancies, it could even signal a change in attitude by the president's team which may lead to much more important things in the future.

Of course, the whole thing could be a political ploy. Obama could be doing a number of things with this veto. Because it is such an obscure issue (allowing notaries to be recognized across state lines), there is no large push for the bill to be signed, or any deadline to pass a new bill (the way there would be, for instance, if Obama vetoed a budget bill). Politically, Obama is putting himself on the side of the average American in the midst of the foreclosure crisis, against the Big Banks who somehow got Congress to pass a law which may help them out legally in the growing foreclosure scandal. That's a pretty good place to be, politically, right now.

The White House may also be using this issue to offer somewhat of an olive branch to the "professional Left," now that Rahm's gone. Again, by almost rubbing our noses in the fact that Elizabeth Warren probably had something to do with this (did we mention it was in the interests of consumer protection?) shows that someone at the White House has realized that there's an election on, and their base of voters would like to see some fight from the leader of the Democratic Party. Perhaps this too is a signal of more such overtures to come.

Of course, the real push from the Left on the subject is to declare a foreclosure moratorium. As the Washington Post article I cited earlier put it:

Obama's veto comes as the uproar over document processing from lawmakers, law enforcement and union officials and other stakeholders intensified on Thursday, turning the foreclosure mess into a political issue.

National civil rights groups, including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza and the Center for Responsible Lending, joined labor unions Thursday in calling for an immediate national moratorium on foreclosures.

The article later notes that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has joined the call for just such a moratorium.

It remains to be seen what the White House thinks of such a drastic move. It would doubtlessly be wildly popular among the electorate, but at the same time it might just lead the electorate to wonder why Democrats hadn't managed to push this issue until conveniently right before an election, when Congress is out and can't act on anything immediately. Democrats can say "the full scope of the problem hasn't come to light before now," but it still might leave a few to wonder whether this wouldn't have been a smart thing to do -- about a year and a half ago.

Barack Obama has never made all that convincing a populist. Up until now, in both word and deed, he's been a half-hearted populist at best (and only occasionally, at that). Perhaps now that Obama is getting some economic advice from a somewhat-different set of people, he will grow to appreciate how populist stances work -- they allow you to do "the right thing," and they benefit you politically across a wide swath of the American public.

Barack Obama, depending on the results of the upcoming election, may be vetoing quite a few bills which arrive on his desk in the next few years. Up until now, he has barely ever even issued a veto threat -- much less actually killed a bill that wasn't just a technicality. The fact that he's now willing to do so may even be a signal to Congress that Obama is toughening up a bit. But whatever new direction this may signal from the White House, what is not in question is that it is a first step towards asserting himself on a entirely new level in this new direction. Obama has gone through somewhat of a transformation during this election season, since about Labor Day. Today's veto announcement puts some teeth into what, up until now, had mostly been campaign rhetoric. Obama may have waited too long to head in this new direction to have much of an effect on the midterms (and, if it is just a cynical political ploy, it may not last much longer after the votes are counted), but it is refreshing to see, nonetheless.


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Obama's Veto”

  1. [1] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I saw this today and have to just have to say "Yay!"

    Some very interesting things are afoot behind the scenes.

    Business folk like Rupert Murdoch - who used to donate equally to both parties - is placing more of his money w/ Republicans. This is a shift for him, from pragmatic to ideological.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has pledged $75 million on the election with much of this going to conservatives. This amount would be, I believe, more than either the DNC or RNC.

    What I find interesting about this is that the big money may be placing all of its eggs in one basket.

    If this is the case, this may have the interesting side effect of freeing Democrats to pursue a stronger agenda. It may unintentionally create a monied party and a populist party. Which would be a shift from the past where big money would give to both parties so whoever won, they had a friend in Washington!

    These are very interesting times. Very interesting indeed.

  2. [2] 
    dsws wrote:

    Why on earth would he have vetoed any bills, with large majorities of his party in both houses? Any president is the head of his party, and any modern president is legislator-in-chief even when facing a hostile Congress. If he let had any significant legislation get to the point of a veto, other than for political showmanship, it would mean that he wasn't doing his job to my expectations.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Now that Elizabeth Warren is in the big loop, effecting all of the big changes in consumer protection, will she now be credited with everything good that comes out of this White House in terms of the recovery even if others deserve most of the credit?

    Inquiring minds would like to know ...

  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    dsws -

    Mostly these things happen with a veto "threat" and it never actually comes down to vetoing some bill. But Obama simply has not made effective use of this very powerful tool. This may be changing, though, with the exodus of Rahm (one can hope, at any rate).

    Liz -

    No, no, don't worry, there'll be credit enough to spread around, never fear! Check out that Salon excerpt, though, because the WH really is pushing the "consumer protection" thing -- which is a really, really good thing for them to do, in my opinion. And the more influence Warren shows from here on out, the better. Also, the Left will be a lot happier as well with Obama, so that's an added bonus.



  5. [5] 
    Kevin wrote:

    You made the Daily Dish again!

    Hope reading you becomes a regular part of Sullivan's routine, and helps bring you greater readership.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I am confounded as to why marijuana legalization is such a hot topic amongst the Left..

    As I have said before, do we REALLY need *another* way for Americans to ingest poisons that enable them to act like morons??? :D

    So, honest question here??

    Where does this thirst for marijuana legalization come from???


  7. [7] 
    Kevin wrote:


    Never having been a fan of the stuff myself, I can still see their more criminal records for a huge number of citizens who are otherwise harmless; and a potential huge boost in taxation revenue. Not to mention a re-direction of police attention to crimes where there truly are victims.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Never having been a fan of the stuff myself, I can still see their more criminal records for a huge number of citizens who are otherwise harmless; and a potential huge boost in taxation revenue. Not to mention a re-direction of police attention to crimes where there truly are victims.

    You do raise logical points.. That is undeniable..

    However, that type of logic can be applied to many other criminal matters..

    Once we start down the road of decriminalization for the sake of ease or convenience, it takes us to a very nasty place indeed..


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    I guess my mind is not really back in the game yet...

    I don't know WHY I posted the marijuana comment in the Obama Veto commentary...

    My bust... Sorry....


  10. [10] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    As I have said before, do we REALLY need *another* way for Americans to ingest poisons that enable them to act like morons??? :D

    Well, first off it's not a poison. By any definition...

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, first off it's not a poison. By any definition...

    I was using the term euphemistically, rather than literally. :D

    Even plain water can become a "poison" in certain quantities..


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