Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama may be enjoying the best summer of his presidency, studded with diplomatic and legal wins, but come autumn he faces a series of hard fights to protect other key elements of his agenda.
Obama winning streak approaching some hurdles
Over the next several months, his immigration reforms appear poised to suffer another blow in the courts, preventing the executive orders issued last year from taking effect. This week's Iran deal, while unlikely to be blocked outright by lawmakers, seems destined to be picked apart by a skeptical Congress. And on a slate of other domestic matters, from climate to taxes to highway funding, political brawls are brewing.
The return-to-earth isn't necessarily a surprise for the White House, which has characterized the spate of achievements over the last several weeks as the result of months and years of persistent work. And Obama and his administration are hardly strangers to drawn-out battles with Republican opponents on Capitol Hill.
But the looming flash-points could blunt what's been an unabashed winning streak for the White House, one that came after many of Obama's critics began writing him off as a lame duck.
"My instructions to my team and my instructions to myself have always been that we are going to squeeze every last ounce of progress that we can make when I have the privilege -- as long as I have the privilege of holding this office," the President said at a news conference last month.
The last two months have been fertile for Obama's legacy -- beginning when a central component of his signature health care law was upheld at the Supreme Court. The ruling was the last legal challenge to Obamacare, and though Republicans have kept up their vows to repeal it, the law appears assured to remain in place at least until Obama leaves office.
A day after the health law ruling, the court extended same-sex marriage rights to couples in every state -- buttressing a push by the White House to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation. To claim his stake in the decision, Obama lit the White House in rainbow; the images went viral.
His diplomatic thaw with Cuba was finalized in early July with the announcement that embassies would soon open in Washington and Havana, a validation of Obama's vow at the beginning of his presidency to engage traditional U.S. foes.
And after two years of talks, a final agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program emerged, forestalling for now a military strike and providing vindication for Obama's pledge to place diplomacy ahead of force.
But the Iran pact faces scrutiny from dubious lawmakers, who worry it doesn't have enough teeth to prevent Tehran from eventually obtaining a nuclear weapon -- even if that prospect is now delayed.
As soon as the administration formally submits documents to Congress, a 60-day review period will begin in which Republicans are already promising to expose what they regard as weaknesses in the Iran agreement.
They plan to spend the August recess generating opposition outside Washington, including during home-district town halls — the same forums that helped stoke anger as Obama was rallying support behind his health law during his first term.
The president has already threatened a veto on any legislation that scuttles his Iran deal, and it's unlikely opponents of the plan can muster the two-thirds majorities needed to override him.
But the White House hopes it can generate enough support for the plan so a veto isn't necessary -- recognizing that international perceptions of the agreement could be diminished if only a minority of U.S. lawmakers say they support it.
As he makes his case for Iran, Obama's sweeping changes on another potential legacy item -- immigration -- remain unrealized, forestalling for now the major deportation relief that was promised to an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants.
The new regulations have been mired in legal challenges since February, when they were originally meant to take effect.
Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals -- considered one of the most conservative in the nation -- heard oral arguments about the legal merits of the actions. The skeptical line of questioning from two of the three judges was an indication the panel wasn't disposed to reverse a lower court decision barring the programs from going into effect. They could issue a ruling soon.
Upholding the injunction means it could be months, or even years, before the immigration actions Obama signed can be fully realized. And if a Republican replaces him as president, the rules could never become reality.
Immigration isn't the first time one of Obama's chief priorities has been subject to high-stakes litigation; the June ruling allowing health care subsidies came after a string of legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act, all of which allowed the law to remain intact.
But unlike Obamacare, the expansion of deportation relief has yet to take effect -- meaning attempts by Republicans to block it won't mean taking away a benefit already being enjoyed by millions of people.
With the presidential election campaign well underway, legislative immigration reform no longer appears tenable before Obama leaves office.
The presidential election season makes compromise -- already a difficult proposition with a GOP controlled Congress -- even more improbable, though the White House did score a win when Republicans helped push through key trade authorities last month that will allow Obama to finalize negotiations on a deal with Pacific Rim nations.
The White House hopes it can also strike a deal on highway funding, which runs out at the end of July. But for now the two sides are at odds on what should be included in a long-term plan, and have only been able to pass stop-gap measures that last through the end of the year.
On taxes, the plan Obama submitted in January to simplify the code and wring more income from investment income faced fierce resistance from Republicans. A bipartisan plan that emerged in the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month has the support of Rep. Paul Ryan, the key Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
But that won't stave off a battle between conservatives who are opposed to new revenue, and a White House looking to fund key new initiatives.
The return to battles with Congress wasn't far from the President's mind on Wednesday, when he urged his Republican rivals -- who have watched him score back-to-back victories for the past several weeks -- to assess his Iran deal fairly.
"We live in Washington and politics do intrude," Obama acknowledged during his press conference Wednesday. "I do expect the debate to be based on facts and not speculation or misinformation."