The 2014 mid-term election results that gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress also position President Barack Obama to pursue a number of objectives that that may not have been possible if Democrats had retained their majority in the Senate.
But that potential success hinges on President Obama seizing the opportunities that lie before him in ways that he has failed to do during his previous six years as president. President Obama must recognize the need to work with Republican leaders in Congress and understand that his pet project “ObamaCare” is a political lightning rod that will keep drawing fire from its opponents.
If President Obama negotiates astutely, he should have a chance to team up with Republicans to pass legislation on tax reform, immigration and fixes for his pet “ObamaCare” project. ObamaCare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, anecdotally has caused a number of companies to limit part-time employees to 29 hours to avoid the rising cost of providing health insurance to those who work at least 30 hours a week for the same employer.
A good example of how a pragmatic Democrat in the White House can work effectively with a Republican Congress occurred in 1996 when President Bill Clinton managed to pass welfare reform legislation. Passage of that bill produced what may have been Clinton’s most significant legislative achievement during his two four-year terms as president.
But President Obama must stop disregarding the counsel of key cabinet members and Vice President Joe Biden when they try to steer him in the right direction. The latest in a continuing series of questionable actions by President Obama occurred on Nov. 7 during a post-election meeting with Congressional leaders when he cut off Vice President Biden, who asked during a discussion how much time the Republicans needed to pass an immigration bill.
President Obama chose a politically savvy vice president as a counterweight to his own background as a community activist but it does little good if the guidance is ignored. The president also alienated many Catholic voters who otherwise may have been inclined to support Democrats until the administration mandated that church groups provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, even though Vice President Biden warned that such a move would create a rift.
Indeed, President Obama’s insistence that Catholic leaders violate their religious beliefs and offer sterilization, contraceptives and drugs and devices that can cause abortions led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and 42 other Catholic organizations to file suit against the administration.
Look no further for a fallout than the mid-term election results when Democrats took a beating at the polls. The decision to disrespect the firmly held religious practices of a key constituency caused repercussions for the White House.
If the president learns from his past mistakes and tries to salvage the last two years of his presidency, he has a chance to leave office with tangible accomplishments.
A Republican-controlled Congress actually may be more likely to support efforts to stem the advance of ISIS in the Middle East than left-leaning Democrats. President Obama recently admitted that he faltered by not following the guidance of former cabinet members such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta to support moderate groups in Syria that could have countered the growing influence of ISIS terrorists in the region that have been slaughtering men, women and children.
President Obama announced plans on Nov. 9 to deploy an additional 1,500 U.S. troops to Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces to nearly double the number of U.S. military advisers there to 3,100. He also sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner requesting Congressional approval to provide an additional $5.6 billion in a renewed efforts to fund the fight against ISIS.
Negotiations with Congressional Republicans may be tough and contentious at times but political leaders need to persevere through such challenges to reach workable solutions. If President Obama avoids the temptation to use executive orders to avoid reaching agreements with Republicans, his last two years in office need not be a fruitless exercise in accomplishing anything other than possibly improving his golf game.
Paul Dykewicz is the editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications, a columnist for Townhall and Townhall Finance, and the author of a new book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain.”