President Barack Obama’s veto pen, unused for years, is about to get a lot more action.
With a bill approving construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline headed his way, Obama is set to reject only the third piece of legislation of his presidency and by far the highest profile.
The Keystone measure would bypass an administration review process to begin building the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Mexico. Republicans say the project would create jobs and reduce foreign oil dependence; Democratic foes say the potential environmental risks aren’t worth it.
The White House opposes the bill because it steps over the administration’s authority to greenlight the project. Obama’s final decision on the matter won’t come until the State Department completes an appraisal of Keystone’s merits, officials have said.
That means for the first time in five years, Obama will pull out his veto pen.
Unlike the hoopla surrounding a big bill signing – during which Obama will use multiple pens that become souvenirs for the measure’s backers – vetoes are usually signed in private, though presidents sometimes come out to cameras to explain their reasoning.
The Keystone veto will come with little “drama or fanfare,” according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, and will likely take place out of public view.
But fanfare or not, that one signature is set to reverberate beyond Washington, where hope of cooperation between the two parties after last year’s midterm elections appears to be waning.
Since the new Congress began in January, Obama has said he’ll reject 13 GOP-sponsored bills, including measures repealing the Affordable Care Act, two measures restricting abortions, and a funding package for the Department of Homeland Security that reverses his executive action on immigration.
He’s also promised to veto any bill placing new sanctions on Iran while negotiations continue over the country’s nuclear program, a stance that pits him against both Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans say the flurry of veto threats belies the White House’s vows to work with the party now in control of both chambers on Capitol Hill.
“The President has been taking steps toward more confrontation rather than bipartisan cooperation on jobs,” House Speaker John Boehner said in January, decrying a flurry of veto threats that came the same day the new Congress was sworn in. “Given the chance to start with the first of bipartisan productivity, the President turned his back on the American people’s priorities.”
Obama has made clear he won’t hesitate to utilize his veto power, whichhe’s yielded only twice thus far. In the first six years of his presidency during which Democrats controlled the Senate,- he made only low-profile rejections of a spending bill and a measure regulating notaries public.
“I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office, partly because legislation that I objected to was typically blocked in the Senate even after Republicans took over the House,” Obama told NPR late last year. “Now I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out.”
That pen is a left-handed Cross Townsend, assembled at the 169-year-old company’s plant in Lincoln, Rhode Island, from components made in China.
“The old saying goes the pen is mightier than the sword, and in these days we don’t use swords anymore, we use pens,” said Bryan Fournier, vice president of operations at Cross Pens.