Skip to main content
editorial

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The president will be looking for common ground, as well as apparent differences, with Republicans at a White House luncheon Friday with top leaders of the soon-to-be GOP dominated Congress. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

Barack Obama is not a lame-duck president. He still has more than two years to go. And though Congress is more Republican than it was a week ago, he's still the President.

Consider the Keystone XL pipeline. The Republicans in Congress will surely introduce bill after bill authorizing the project. But they almost certainly won't have enough votes to make those bills veto-proof. Mr. Obama has never appeared to be personally opposed to the pipeline, but the green end of his Democratic base is – so he's spent years keeping the project in limbo, refusing to give it either a yea or a nay. Mr. Obama's latest delay involves extending the pipeline's review, pending a Nebraska court decision. The President should get ahead of the Republican attempts to work a wedge issue – his union backers and most other Americans support Keystone – and approve the pipeline soon.

On more substantial environmental matters, Mr. Obama has already put in place a plan to reduce pollution from coal- and gas-fired power plants, by his presidential regulatory authority. Division of powers means a GOP-dominated Congress will be challenged to water down those rules.

As for trade, Mr. Obama and the Republicans both support the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Hitherto, the Republicans were perversely slowing TPP down by not granting the President take-it-or-leave-it, "fast-track" negotiation authority. But now Orrin Hatch, a leading Republican who will soon be chairman of the Senate finance committee, has called for fast-track presidential authority on TPP. If Republicans want a trade deal, they have to let the President claim some of the credit by allowing him to negotiate it.

The GOP no longer has much appetite for another manufactured debt crisis and a government shutdown; that didn't go over well with the public. As the U.S. deficit has come down sharply, claims of fiscal crisis have faded. Overdue spending is needed on infrastructure, which of course benefits business, as well as everybody else.

Then there's Obamacare. Republicans may be able to chip away at parts of the Affordable Care Act, but they can't kill it. Again, Mr. Obama's veto stands in the way.

The bottom line? A Republican-dominated Congress at loggerheads with a Democratic president may have become a bit more Republican, but the logjam remains.