Washington Post - Sean Sullivan
President Obama's not-so-subtle reminder in his State of the Union address that he won both of his elections for president earned him a fresh round of animosity from congressional Republicans, and threatened to exacerbate an already tense relationship.
Obama's line, which quickly became the most talked-about part of his speech, isn't going to do him any favors in the the GOP-controlled Congress, Republican lawmakers said.
"Yeah, but who won the last election?" responded Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), when asked about it. "You can't take politics out of a politician even if he doesn't have any more elections in front of him."
Cole called Obama an "extremely gifted" politician, but added: "If he wants to get things done, maybe a little more humility and a little more outreach, a little less provocation."
Sen. Lisa Murkoswki (R-Alaska) said Obama sent mixed messages in his speech.
"It's one thing to say, 'I want to work with you.' And it's another thing to say, 'but on my terms, because if you don't do it my way, I'm going to veto it,'" said Murkowski. "Well, that doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy about working with you."
Cornell William Brooks, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, saw no problem with Obama's choice of words.
"He has won two elections, he said. "Republicans just won the last set of elections. But what's key here is that most people in the country place a great deal more stock and confidence in his platform. So they may have won the election, but he's winning on the issues."
"I have no more campaigns to run," Obama said in his speech, prompting mock applause from some Republicans in the chamber. Then, he added: "I know because I won both of them," words that did not appear in his prepared remarks.
Texas's two Republican senators said they took issue with the overall tone of Obama's speech.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said it was "probably more suited for his first State of the Union," adding, "you have to suspend your disbelief, based on the facts, to believe everything he said."
Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential presidential candidate, said, "Indeed there was some irony as he had rhetoric for unity while repeatedly attacking the United States Congress. That is not a recipe for working together."
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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress.
“Tonight’s presidential address represents another missed opportunity for the president to unite and lead the country,” said Cole. “Instead of focusing on areas where bipartisan agreement is possible, his proposals will further divide us and shake the confidence of hardworking Americans who need to trust that their government can function—even when it is divided.
“Unfortunately, few of the president’s proposals deal with the long-term challenges that our country faces. Although our current entitlement programs are on an unsustainable trajectory, the president continues to tout phantom economic recovery rather than proposing ideas to deal with our long-term deficit and entitlement challenges.
“While there has been some progress bringing down the deficit since Republicans took control of the House, our nation is still very much in debt and still overspending. This is not a problem that can be wished away or ignored, and it is most certainly not solved through the introduction of new programs—like free community college tuition—that require even more taxpayer dollars. It serves as a reminder that we need a budget that balances. Just as the battle for a balanced budget isn’t over, neither is the need for reforms to programs like the Social Security Disability Fund, which is projected to go bankrupt under this administration.
“The president’s latest tax proposal would force unfair redistribution of wealth, rather than creation of worthwhile employment opportunities. In any Congress, successfully enacting such tax policies is unlikely, but that is even truer in this Congress.
“Our nation’s economic situation impacts our actual and perceived strength around the world. Today, there are mounting threats to our national security that require immediate and decisive leadership. One of the more obvious includes the mobilization against our deadly enemy, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). For months now, we have monitored the situation and been shocked by their acts of terror, yet the president has still failed to submit a request to Congress for use of force against the dangerous foe. While the president ‘talks a good game’ about ISIL, he is pursuing a scattered, uncoordinated approach that is unlikely to destroy ISIL or win the domestic, bipartisan support needed to wage a long, hard campaign.
“Even in divided government, there are opportunities for bipartisan cooperation. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the president intends to pursue promising areas of agreement—like trade, infrastructure or tax reform. Instead, with the nation’s most pressing problems occurring on his watch, the president’s vision for the future fails to prioritize or offer real solutions to those challenges.
“This State of the Union is a disappointing start to the president’s final two years in office. However, I pledge to continue to try and find areas of common ground where we can work together to move America forward,” concluded Cole.
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Washington Examiner - Sean Lengell
The Republican Party toned down partisan rhetoric in its official response to the President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, focusing on the party’s plans and ideals instead of directly responding to the administration’s agenda.
Newly elected Sen. Joni Ernst, a no-nonsense conservative from Iowa who delivered the rebuttal, portrayed a compassionate GOP that understands — and will address — the concerns, anxieties and pains of average Americans.
“Rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities,” Ernst said. “I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.
“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.”
Ernst touched on potential areas of bipartisanship, saying there’s a lot Congress can achieve “if we work together,” such as easing trade restrictions to Europe and the Pacific, reforming an outdated and “loophole-ridden” tax code, and encouraging Americans to buy U.S. made products “so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here at home.
“The president has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas,” she said. “We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.”
Still, Ernst did take some jabs at the president and the “hurt” caused by his agenda, particularly his healthcare reforms.
“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare,” she said. “It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”
The senator vowed that Republicans will "keep fighting to repeal and replace a healthcare law that’s hurt so many hardworking families."
Ernst said the Republican-controlled Congress understand “how difficult these past six years have been” under the Obama administration.
“For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day,” she said.
She pressed the president to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.
And the senator vowed that congressional Republicans will propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget — “with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the president has proposed.”
Other Republicans were even more critical of Obama in their personal State of the Union responses. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, while saying he appreciated the president has “finally acknowledge[d] that the middle class is being squeezed,” accused him of doubling down on failed polices that “have prevented so many Utahns and hardworking Americans from getting ahead in the first place.
“We know these are not serious proposals because the president is not serious about getting them through Congress,” said the Tea Party favorite. “For him, it’s all 2016 partisan politics now, and Republicans shouldn’t waste time debating the merits of the president’s political talking points.
“As the president tries to divide Americans and distract them from the failures of his administration, we shouldn’t take the bait.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., in a pre-State of the Union video response, said it appeared that president is willing to work with Republicans on certain key issues, such as trade and improving the nation’s infrastructure.
“And I think there’s genuine bipartisan consensus [on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and some of the problems we’re seeing in the Middle East,” he said.
But Cole chastised the president for pushing “nonstarter” items like a tax increase aimed at “redistributing wealth from one group of people to another group of people.
“If the idea that the next two years is simply going to be about raising taxes so that we can spend more money in Washington, D.C., at the expense of our constituents, that’s simply not going to fly,” he said.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., accused the president of waging a “war on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
“The president’s agenda will cost our economy $479 billion dollars, we will experience a double-digit electricity price increase, and tens of thousands of Americans will lose access to well-paying jobs over the course of the next decade,” he said. ”Why the pain for no gain?”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delivered a State of the Union response via YouTube, saying the president's proposal to raise taxes on the most wealthy Americans wouldn't solve the nation's poverty problem, saying that everyone’s taxes — “from the richest to the poorest” — should be cut, along with government spending.
“Pitting one American against another is not a pathway toward prosperity,” he said. “The president is intent on redistributing the pie but not growing it. He misunderstands that the bulk of America wants a bigger pie.”
Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said both parties “too often seek military intervention without thinking through the possible unintended consequences.”
He also took a direct swipe at his possible Democratic presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that “Hillary’s war in Libya is a prime example of acting without thinking.”
“Libya is now a jihadist wonderland,” he said. “Jihadists swim in our embassy pool. Our ambassador is dead, and we are now more at risk of terrorist attacks that ever before," he said.Online: Washington Examiner Read More
The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel
President Barack Obama challenged Congress on Tuesday to leverage the nation’s relative economic strength into a future that promised more opportunities and financial rewards for the middle class.
“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” the president asked in his State of the Union speech. “Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
Addressing a Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time in his presidency, a confident Obama made clear that he would stand by his principles, despite the disastrous election results for his party in November. He reiterated veto threats for legislation that would violate those principles.
But he said he had no more campaigns to run and was hoping both parties could engage in politics that better reflect the nation’s values.
“A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears,” he said. “A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values and principles and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”
Obama said it had been a “breakthrough year for America” and that the nation had emerged from a harsh recession and two wars with the freedom to write its own future.
“America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.”
Obama’s next-to-the-last State of the Union speech also touched on the threat of terrorist attacks on people and computers; racial tensions in the United States; relations with long-time enemies Cuba and Iran; trade; internet regulation; climate change; and the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
He said the nation stood united with victims of terrorism “from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris” and vowed to continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks.
But Obama’s main focus was on helping the middle class through new spending programs, business regulations and tax changes that GOP lawmakers are not philosophically inclined to support.
The president argued that the middle-class workers would be helped by his proposals to guarantee sick leave and equal pay for women, more subsidies for child care, a higher minimum wage and lower mortgage premiums.
“These ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families,” Obama said. “That is a fact. And that’s what all of us — Republicans and Democrats alike — were sent here to do.”
Unemployment has fallen dramatically since Obama took office in 2009 and the U.S. economy has expanded steadily for the last few years, but the median income has actually shrunk, making it tougher for middle-class families to make ends meet.
In the Republican response to the Obama’s speech, freshman Sen. Joni Ernst, of Iowa, said the president and Democrats had contributed to middle-class woes.
Ernst said, “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled health-care plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.
“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”
The president outlined his tax proposals, saying he wanted to close “loopholes” that reward companies keeping profits abroad and “lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.
“We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college,” he said.
Republican lawmakers have already rejected the proposals, which have been widely described as a Robin Hood approach to tax policy.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said Tuesday, “The president’s latest tax proposal would force unfair redistribution of wealth, rather than creation of worthwhile employment opportunities. In any Congress, successfully enacting such tax policies is unlikely, but that is even truer in this Congress.”
The president called again for Congress to pass a resolution authorizing force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He said American leadership was stopping the group’s advance.
“Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” he said.
“We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.”
Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard and a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said lawmakers would “debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by al-Qaida, ISIL and those radicalized by them. We know threats like these can’t just be wished away.”
The president reflected on the 2004 Democratic convention speech in Boston that first brought him national attention. In that speech — made during his campaign for the U.S. Senate — he said there were no blue or red states, just united states.
“Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision,” the president said Tuesday night.
“How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided and naive, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
“I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
“I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best.”
Addressing the division that arose last year after two police officer killings of black men, the president looked for common ground.
“We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York,” he said.
“But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.
“And surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”
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At the end of last year and ahead of the 114th Congress, lawmakers in both chambers voted to fund the government and avert another painful and unnecessary shutdown. While the legislation funded nearly all areas of government through the end of the fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was only funded through February. This legislative strategy was enacted to allow the new majority in both chambers the opportunity to address the president’s unconstitutional executive order related to immigration and rightly block funding for its implementation.
As we remember, the president announced last November that he would grant legal status—by executive order—to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants. While the president announced the plan a couple months ago, the Administration isn’t expected to implement that plan until sometime this spring, according to fact sheets released upon the announcement. By only funding the DHS through February, the goal was to prevent funds from implementing the unconstitutional executive order.
While the DHS appropriations portion funds areas related to immigration, there are also funds to protect our nation’s security and disaster and emergency preparedness and should be addressed with urgency. Especially in light of mounting threats at home and abroad, I am glad that lawmakers in the new Congress came together last week to determine DHS funding through the end of the fiscal year.
But lawmakers didn’t forget about the president’s intention to act unilaterally on immigration. Final passage of the DHS funding bill included five amendments that addressed the president’s unconstitutional plan. Inclusion of these amendments blocks funding from being used for the president’s granting of legal status, denies funds for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications and requires the greatest scrutiny and highest deportation priority to illegal immigrants guilty of sex crimes or domestic violence. The bill also includes language that condemns the Administration’s policy that is slanted in favor of illegal immigrants and expresses the need for reform that helps American and legal workers.
While the House has acted responsibly and quickly, our colleagues in the upper chamber must also demonstrate the same commitment to the American people and immediately vote on similar legislation to responsibly fund the government and hold the president accountable. Even though the president has consistently shown little interest in working to find common ground and has gotten comfortable hiding behind a Senate that was previously led by his own party, I hope that he will choose to negotiate with lawmakers to solve issues with our immigration system—rather than foolishly relying on his veto pen. The American voters spoke loudly and clearly last November by repudiating the president’s party and his policies. He would do well to heed their voices.Read More
NewsOK - Chris Casteel
WASHINGTON — The start of the new Congress has been marked by familiar conflicts between Republicans and President Barack Obama, raising questions about whether the next two years will yield anything but more grid-lock.
Obama is scheduled to give a State of the Union speech Tuesday to a Congress totally controlled by Republicans for the first time in his presidency.
In the lead-up to the address, the president has been introducing parts of his 2015 agenda — free years of community college, universal access to high-speed broadband, paid sick leave — that demonstrate how much his priorities differ from a congressional majority bent on cutting spending and rolling back regulations on the private sector.
For their part, Republican lawmakers kicked off the first two weeks of the new year by trying to take away the president’s authority over the Keystone XL pipeline; reversing executive actions on deportations; and repealing parts of the Dodd-Frank legislation on financial reform. The administration has threatened vetoes of all three bills.
Stake out positions
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said a certain amount of conflict was inevitable and that each side had to stake out their positions before compromises could be struck.
“If you really want to get something done, you will have to deal,’’ said Cole. “Dealing doesn’t come up front. It comes after the initial positions. I’m not telling you we’ll come to any big deals. But I’m not letting the initial phase color the judgment.”
Republican lawmakers and the president have expressed some optimism about working together, but the legislative opportunities mentioned by them comprise a pretty short list.
At a GOP retreat last week, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, cited cybersecurity and trade as possible areas of agreement, with some potential for a highway bill and even tax reform.
Speaking to reporters last week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it was “perfectly fine for Republicans to pass legislation that the president doesn’t support. They obviously can make their views known on a variety of policy areas.
“What we should not do, however, is allow our well-known opposition or at least differences of opinion on some areas to prevent us from cooperating on others.”
Earnest also mentioned infrastructure — that is, the long-term highway funding bill — and tax reform as areas where common ground might be found.
Shift in control
Republicans made huge gains in the House and Senate after the November elections, and Obama became the third president in a row to watch party control in Congress shift to the opposition.
For former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, the change came in his first term. He and the new Republican majority were able to claim some major accomplishments — welfare reform and a balanced budget — before he was ultimately impeached by the GOP House.
Democrats mostly fought with former President George W. Bush, a Republican, when they took control of both houses in the last two years of his presidency.
But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, who was House speaker during Bush’s last two years, said there was still “a great deal of success.”
She told reporters this month, “We passed ... one of the biggest energy bills in the history of our country. We passed a stimulus that was very positive for low income people. We passed the TARP (financial bail-out), working with him.
“And so there is, in recent memory, a time when the opposing party worked with the president of the United States to get some things done, and that is what we would hope (Republicans) would do with President Obama. So far, they have not.”
Legacy or vetoes
Obama is in the same situation as Bush, facing a Congress in complete control of the opposition party for his last two years.
Cole said there are at least two big challenges to cooperation: the politically polarized country and the lack of negotiating skill in the president, who was not — as Clinton and Bush — a governor who had to work with legislators to get things done.
There is also some question, Cole said, about whether Obama wants to add more legislative accomplishments to his legacy or whether he is content to spend the next two years vetoing Republican bills.
Obama has made clear already that he has an agenda, but it’s not clear whether some of his proposals — such as the one for free community college — will even get a hearing.
At his end-of-the-year news conference last month, the president told reporters there would be “some tough fights on areas where we disagree.”
“If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me. If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no. And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.
“But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.”
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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after his committee assignments for the 114th Congress were finalized. Cole will remain on three committees in the House, including the Budget Committee, Appropriations Committee and Rules Committee.
As established in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and present in the official rules of the House, the Budget Committee must have three members of the majority party and two from the minority also serve on the Appropriations Committee. For the third consecutive Congress, Cole was reappointed to the Budget Committee as one of these three Republican members, and he will now be considered the Senior Appropriator on the panel.
On the Appropriations Committee, Cole will serve as the newly-appointed chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies; he previously served as chairman of the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. He will also continue to serve on the Subcommittee on Defense and Subcommittee on Interior.
“Last week’s swearing in marked the beginning of a historic Republican majority in Congress that was decisively elected by the American people,” said Cole. “I am honored to continue representing the Fourth District of Oklahoma, and I am optimistic that we can find real solutions that the nation desperately needs. I look forward to the challenge of leading part of that effort both in my subcommittee chairmanship and other subcommittee and committee assignments.”
In his seventh term representing the Fourth District of Oklahoma, Congressman Cole also announced that his new office location for Washington, D.C. will be 2467 Rayburn House Office Building. His Oklahoma offices in Norman, Ada and Lawton will remain the same.
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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2015.
The legislation provides $39.7 billion in discretionary funding that covers immediate and anticipated needs for border security and enforcement, cybersecurity, disaster relief and emergency preparedness, the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Secret Service.
“I am pleased that the House voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year,” said Cole. “Especially in light of mounting threats at home and abroad, this legislation shows that lawmakers are committed to providing the resources and personnel for both our nation’s security and law enforcement needs. Remembering the devastating May 2013 tornadoes in the Fourth District and other areas across the state of Oklahoma, I am also pleased to see adequate funding allotted to disaster relief and emergency preparedness. ”
Final passage of the bill included five amendments that addressed the president’s unconstitutional plan announced in November that would grant executive amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants. Inclusion of these amendments blocks funding in the bill from being used for the president’s unilateral immigration action, denies funds for DACA applications and requires the greatest scrutiny and deportation priority to illegal immigrants guilty of sex crimes or domestic violence. The bill also includes language that condemns the Administration’s unilateral action that is slanted in favor of illegal immigrants and expresses the need for policy that helps American and legal workers.
“In addition to fulfilling our obligation to the American people by responsibly funding the government, the DHS appropriations bill passed in the House today prevents the president from using funds for his unconstitutional plan to grant executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Last November, when he announced this plan, the president showed that he is not interested in working with lawmakers to find real reforms for our broken immigration system. Instead, he has chosen to act outside of the boundaries of his powers. I hope he reconsiders his non-strategy in the future and decides to work with Congress in solving issues with our immigration system. In the meantime, inclusion of these amendments keeps the president accountable to powers of the executive branch and prevents his overreach from becoming reality.
“While the House has acted responsibly today, our colleagues in the upper chamber must also demonstrate the same commitment to the American people and immediately vote on similar legislation to responsibly fund the government and keep the president accountable. I hope that lawmakers in the Senate keep the promise to the voters who elected them,” concluded Cole.
Contact: Sarah Corley (202) 225-6165Read More
Despite claims that he wants to work with the new Congress and enact positive reforms for the American people, President Obama certainly isn’t starting off the year in a way that reflects such intentions. By already threatening to veto any legislation on Keystone XL that makes it to his desk, the president is choosing environmental extremists over hardworking Americans who would benefit from the thousands of jobs created.
Since TransCanada submitted its application to build Keystone XL more than six years ago, the president has refused to make a decision one way or another. If approved for construction, the $7 billion construction project would create around 42,100 direct and indirect jobs, adding around $2 billion to the American economy. The pipeline could move up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day once completed; as a point of reference, we currently import about half of that amount from the Middle East.
In an effort to see this project through, TransCanada has fully cooperated with the process and even re-applied for a permit at the president’s recommendation after he declined the first in January 2012. Studies have been conducted by the State Department that revealed no harmful impact on the environment. Despite these findings, we are still in the waiting room.
Even labor unions—usually supporters of the president and his policies—have expressed their anger and opposition to the president for delaying a construction project that would provide tens of thousands of good paying jobs at a time when the American economy sorely needs them. When President Obama rejected TransCanada’s first application on January 18, 2012 and told the company to resubmit its application, he angered union workers who understood the cost of lost labor from his delay. Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North American, spoke up on behalf of the base, “The president has sided with environmentalists instead of blue collar construction workers—even though environmental concerns were more than adequately addressed.”
Not only is continued delay of Keystone XL a missed opportunity for hardworking Americans, but it also damages our friendship with our neighbors in Canada—one of the best friends our country has and one that has fought with us in defense of freedom all over the world.
The states through which the pipeline would run are on board, including Nebraska where litigation challenging the authority of the governor to approve the construction of the pipeline has been resolved. Last week, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the governor’s authority in the matter. In the past, the president has cited this litigation as one of the reasons he could not approve the project.
Unfortunately, before even seeing the reconciled bill between the House and the Senate, the president has already stated that he will veto any legislation that comes to his desk on the matter. Considering that he traveled to Cushing, Oklahoma—where the pipeline would have a terminal—to celebrate the completion of the southern route of the same pipeline, the president’s intentions are hypocritical and ill-founded. Evidently, he would rather cater to environmental extremists, rather than respecting the will of the majority of Americans who support construction.
Without question, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress and on both sides of the aisle agree with the majority of Americans that construction of the Keystone pipeline is a wise move for domestic energy production and job creation. During the first week of session in the 114th Congress, House members renewed their commitment to this project by voting for the 10th time to remove the presidential permit requirement that has prevented TransCanada’s construction of Keystone XL. I voted for this measure and was pleased to stand with the American people – and especially the American workers who stand to benefit most from this important project.
Time is of the essence on this project. Up until now, our Canadian friends have shown remarkable patience in the face of irresponsible and unforgiveable delays in approving this project. But it’s not reasonable for us to expect them to delay construction indefinitely. Sooner or later, in the absence of approval, they will have to seek alternative means to get their product to market, which will mean tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic growth will go elsewhere. It’s time for the President to put the interests of American workers ahead of those of radical environmentalists and approve this project.Read More
New York Times - Julie Hirschfeld Davis
In the halls of the White House and the corridors of the Capitol, there was a stark dissonance last week between President Obama’s rhetoric of consensus and compromise and his confrontational actions, offering the first glimmers of the president’s strategy for engaging with a Republican Congress that holds the fate of his agenda in its hands.
On the first day of the 114th Congress, Mr. Obama sat in the Oval Office and said his message to the new Republican Congress would be, “Let’s figure out how to work together.”
Only about two hours earlier, his press secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters that the president intended to veto the first two pieces of legislation Republicans in the House of Representatives were planning to pass: to authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline and to redefine a full-time worker under the Affordable Care Act.
With his quick veto threats — he issued three more on Monday night — Mr. Obama signaled that he would be aggressive in rejecting legislation he sees as chipping away at his policy priorities, such as the health care law, or his presidential authority to do things like approve an oil pipeline. But by insisting that he wants to collaborate with Republicans, the president — who will host congressional leaders of both parties at the White House on Tuesday — also hinted that there is negotiating room beyond those threats.
“The president’s attitude is that we shouldn’t let our disagreements, as big as they are on some issues, prevent us from working together on the things we do agree on,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “If Republicans take a similar attitude, there is an opportunity to prove people wrong and make some progress.”
For now, Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans are dwelling mostly on the big disagreements.
Congressional leaders pointed to the swift veto threats as the latest evidence that the president has no real interest in working with them — “At a minimum, he could have waited a few hours,” said Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio — and warned that Mr. Obama could be spoiling his chance for a productive relationship.
“They think they can keep poking people in the eye and it won’t have any consequences, and the reality is, it will,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “To us right now, it looks like the president wants to pick a fight with us every other day, and if that’s their strategy, good luck. I don’t think it’s going to work very well.”
White House officials argued that it was Republicans who had chosen to bait Mr. Obama into an early confrontation, by advancing measures they knew he would reject. The Keystone bill, in particular, seemed written with the intention of drawing a veto because it takes power from the president and gives it to Congress. All of the bills the president has said he would veto contain provisions he has long opposed.
“While it may raise questions in the minds of some Republicans about the president’s willingness to work with Republicans in Congress to advance priorities,” Mr. Earnest said Monday of the veto threats, “it might also raise questions in the mind of some others that Republicans have chosen as their first few pieces of legislation bills that they know the president opposes.”
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Beyond the bickering lies a timeworn reality that Mr. Obama is embracing, and a tactic deployed by his predecessors in both political parties: employing vetoes, and the threat of using them, as a crucial element of negotiation between presidents and Congresses led by the other party. Bill Clinton mastered the art, often using vetoes as a negotiating tool on major agenda items. He vetoed welfare reform legislation twice before signing it into law in 1996.
“It’s not just a question of saying ‘no’ — the veto is a bargaining tool for the president where he extracts legislative concessions from the opposition,” said Charles M. Cameron, a politics professor at Princeton University who wrote a book on the subject. “If the president will stick to his guns, either the Republicans are going to get nothing done or they’re going to have to give him some of what he wants.”
The threats Mr. Obama issued last week were of the “blame-game veto” variety, Mr. Cameron said — the sort that allow both sides to make a political point and rally their respective bases, but that are not really intended to yield a legislative compromise.
The president’s veto threat on the Keystone measure convinced at least one wavering lawmaker of his own party, Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, that she should vote “no” on the bill.
“I was waiting to see where the president was going to be and what he was going to ask us to do,” said Ms. Dingell, who joined 152 other Democrats in opposing the measure.
At the same time, the threat united Republicans. After the bill passed on Friday, Mr. Boehner issued a news release boasting, “House Defies President’s Veto Threat, Approves Job-Creating Keystone Pipeline.”
But more often, said Sam Kernell, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, a president’s veto threat is the start of a negotiation that leads to a law.
“Obama is tracking history here, because threats are really a big part of divided government,” Mr. Kernell said. His research analyzing veto threats by presidents reaching back to Ronald Reagan shows that measures that prompt them are “highly likely” to become law.
Anita Dunn, a former senior aide to Mr. Obama, said he and congressional Republicans were both staking out early positions so they could ultimately sit down and strike such bargains.
“There’s going to be a lot of common interest, after the rhetorical grenades have been thrown, in stepping back and figuring out what in two years both sides can claim as achievements,” she said.
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Tom Cole became the Representative for Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District on November 6th, 2002. During his tenure in the House Cole has established himself as a strong voice for the conservative views and values of the Fourth District. He is an advocate for a strong national defense, a defender of the interests of small business and taxpayers, a proponent of education at all levels and a leader on issues dealing with Native Americans and tribal governments. Cole was named as one of “Five Freshmen to Watch” by Roll Call at the outset of his congressional career.
Congressman Cole is a member on the House Armed Services Committee to which he was appointed in 2002 He also serves on the Natural Resources Committee. Cole serves as a Deputy Whip in the U.S. House. In this role he helps line up the votes needed to pass the legislative agenda of the President and the House Republican Conference. Cole also serves as Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, making him a member of the House GOP Leadership.
Cole has a significant background of service to his home state of Oklahoma. He has served as a District Director for former Congressman Mickey Edwards, a member of the Oklahoma State Senate, and as Oklahoma’s Secretary of State. In this capacity he served as former Governor Frank Keating’s chief legislative strategist and liaison to the state’s federal delegation. Keating tapped Cole to lead Oklahoma’s successful effort to secure federal funds to assist in the rebuilding of Oklahoma City in the wake of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19th, 1995.
Cole is a founding partner and past president of CHS & Associates, a nationally recognized consulting and survey research firm based in Oklahoma City. The firm has been named one of the top twenty in its field in America and has literally dozens of past and current clients scattered across the country.
A former college instructor in history and politics, Cole holds a B.A. from Grinnell College, an M.A. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Cole has been a Thomas Watson Fellow and a Fulbright Fellow at the University of London. He currently serves on the national Board of the Fulbright Association. He also serves on the board of the Aspen Institute.
Tom Cole is a fifth generation Oklahoman and an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. He is currently the only Native American serving in Congress He was awarded the Congressional Leadership award by the National Congress of American Indians and was inducted in the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004. Cole’s late mother, Helen, is also a member of the Chickasaw Hall of Fame and served as a state representative, state senator and Mayor of Moore in her native state of Oklahoma. Cole’s late father, John, served twenty years in the United States Air Force and worked an additional two decades as a civilian federal employee at Tinker Air Force Base. Tom and his wife Ellen, have one son, Mason, and reside in Moore, Oklahoma.
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Oklahoma lawmakers give their take on the State of the Union address http://t.co/L8evZPlGb6
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