A defiant Barack Obama dives into what could be a defining period of his presidency this week, after repeatedly enraging Republicans from afar during his Asia tour.
Obama faces showdowns with the GOP over immigration, the Keystone XL pipeline and his drive for a nuclear deal with Iran, all of which have huge consequences for his political legacy.
Far from being chastened by the Republican capture of the Senate, Obama is setting out to prove he is no lame duck and can still set the agenda.
But the GOP insists the mid-terms gave them a share of power in Washington, and believe Obama risks usurping his authority and even the constitution with his bold new strategy.
Obama drawing lines on immigration, climate change
Obama chose a highly symbolic setting to set the tone for two final White House years in which he will face a unified Republican Congress.
Side-by-side in Myanmar with the world’s most famous dissident, Obama refused to bow to what Republicans regard as the capital’s new political “reality.”
On the veranda of the lakeside villa from where Aung San Suu Kyi faced down a junta, Obama said he had long warned House Republicans he would use executive power to reform the US immigration system if they failed to.
“That’s gonna happen. That’s gonna happen before the end of the year.”
The president doubled down in Australia on Sunday, before boarding Air Force One for home, saying he would be derelict in his duties if he did not act.
“I can’t wait in perpetuity when I have authorities that at least for the next two years can improve the system,” he said.
White House officials have not said when Obama will wield his executive powers in a move that could remove the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented people. But they say it will be soon.
While Obama was abroad, post-election tensions escalated sharply on Capitol Hill as happy talk from both sides about working together quickly ebbed away.
Senior aides dispute the idea the elections were a referendum on the President and say Obama is at his best when he is on “offense” and believe that’s what Americans want to see.
So, as he trekked through Asia, Obama rattled Republicans almost every day.
He surprised everyone with a new climate deal with China that the GOP slammed as costly and “ridiculous.” He popped up on video to discuss new Internet regulations that may spark another row. He refused to budge on approving the Keystone XL pipeline to take oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. He may veto a bill on the project that Congress is expected to pass this week.
While in Asia, the president debunked the idea that the plan, opposed by environmentalists in his political base, would create lots of jobs and lower gas prices.
Obama says he still wants to work with Republicans on tax reform and infrastructure spending bills. But it looks like he has decided that he won’t compromise his legacy priorities to get that done.
SOURCE: Stephen Collinson