President Barack Obama has vowed to veto one of the first bills to be taken up by the Republican Congress and is being advised to veto another one, according to two formal White House statements Wednesday. The two pieces of legislation are the first controversial bills of this session of Congress.
For Obama, who has only vetoed two bills since taking office in 2009, this is a shift and a potential signal to the GOP about how he will work with the new majority over the last two years of his presidency. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has already said Obama will continue to take executive actions in the “fourth quarter” of his presidency.
President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with the executive committee of the National Governors Association, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The Office of Budget and Management released two statements of administration policy saying only that the president’s senior advisers believe he should veto a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline, but definitively said Obama would veto another bill to eliminate the Obamacare 30-hour work week requirement, replacing it with a 40-hour week.
Versions of both bills passed the House with bipartisan support last year. Earnest has previously indicated the president would veto the bills, but Wednesday marked the first formal statement of administration policy during the 114th Congress.
The bills are two of the first three bills the Republican Congress is taking up this session. The House passed the non-controversial “Hire our Heroes” bill Tuesday with overwhelming bipartisan support to employ more veterans.
Republicans backing the legislation on the 30-hour workweek bill say the Obamacare language gives companies an incentive to cut worker hours to less than 30 hours per week.
The OMB said the workweek bill would “significantly increase the deficit, reduce the number of Americans with employer-based health insurance coverage, and create incentives for employers to shift their employees to part-time work – causing the problem it intends to solve.”
It said the bill would “weaken a provision of the Affordable Care Act” and that “there is no evidence that this has caused a broad shift to part-time work to date.”
“If the president were presented with H.R. 30, he would veto it,” the statement continued.
As for the Keystone bill, which has the support of a filibuster-proof 60 senators and 60 percent of the public, the OMB took a somewhat softer tone, saying, “if presented to the president, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.”
Still, the statement said the administration strongly opposes Keystone, and should allow the traditional State Department review of cross border infrastructure projects to be completed.
“H.R. 3 seeks to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines serve the national interest by authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline project prior to the completion of the Presidential Permitting process,” the statement said. “In doing so, it would cut short consideration of important issues relevant to the national interest. The bill also would authorize the project despite uncertainty due to ongoing litigation in Nebraska.”
Supporters of the Keystone pipeline project contend it will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, while opponents argue extending it from Canada through several U.S. Western states would raise environmental concerns.