, Newburyport, MA

January 31, 2014

Obama issues challenge to Congress

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — President Obama’s State of the Union speech can leave no doubt as to do what must be done in the year ahead or just how far he will go to do it.

He will do what he can to gain support from both Democrats and Republicans for his policies, but where support is lacking, he will continue to test the power of the presidency.

It’s not an idle threat. Congress has been at loggerheads over contentious issues for much too long.

Most unsettling among them was the president’s take it or leave it interpretation last year of Obamacare.

He was dead wrong, but It was not enough to make a difference in his re-election.

That’s over, but outcomes of the Senate and House elections in November will set the stage for his last two years as president.

Expectations are not hopeful, and Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech had much to do with that.

It is expected that while Republicans will lose some House seats, they will retain control there.

Expectations for the Senate outcomes are less clear. Expectations are Republicans may gain some seats.

If true, it will be increasingly important for Obama to find more common ground with them.

His speech of Tuesday night addressed that.

“I’m eager to work with all of you,” he said.

That would be a change, and he also added:

“Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

That’s a reasonable assessment of the political climate. He’ll do what he can to get what he wants done with or without congressional approval whenever necessary and legally possible.

Congressional responses can be more complex.

Party leaders have strong powers, and going along to get along with them limits independence.

There’s been only a glimmer of hope for change, but change there must be because a Disunited States of America cannot put up much longer with political stalemate.

The president has an ambitious list of proposals for congressional approval.

Challenging Congress to accept them would not appear to be a productive strategy. Working both sides of their aisles to find common ground would.

Individual members of Congress facing re-election have to face consequences of their actions at home as they do with the never-ending partisan realities of Washington.

It is, after all, a representative government of its people, by its people, for its people, designed to take into consideration their needs and to resolve differences for the common good.

Nowhere is it written that there won’t be prices to be paid.

Obama’s speech didn’t threaten, but it straightforwardly let his intention be known to all. He knows what he wants to do, he intends to do everything possible to see it done, and he wants to work with both parties.

Where that fails he doesn’t intend to quit, and if that means assuming questionably unconstitutional powers, he’ll do what he can and let the chips fall where they lay.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is