Keystone veto reveals hollowness of Obama’s jobs rhetoric

Veto supporters rally in front of the White House on Tuesday, the day President Barack Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Reuters photo by Larry Downing.

Veto supporters rally in front of the White House on Tuesday, the day President Barack Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Reuters photo by Larry Downing.

We have often heard Democrats — both in Maine and nationally — try to claim the mantle of job creation away from the GOP. They cast themselves as technocrats, only interested in doing what’s best for the economy without regard for their ideological agendas. They’ve adopted these talking points from Republicans in an attempt to woo voters, but once in office their actions and policies reveal their true intentions.

In Maine, they’ve at least been honest with their opposition to certain kinds of jobs. Last year we saw former Senate President Justin Alfond admit that he didn’t want “right to work jobs” in Maine, and he wasn’t the only Democrat to express opposition to certain businesses for ideological reasons. Nationally, President Obama has been less direct, creating a huge disconnect between his words and deeds when it comes to jobs.

When he was trying to get his economic stimulus package passed, Obama implored Congress to come together. He cast opponents to his massive spending spree as intransigent ideologues who were disregarding the greater good at the altar of political purity. He didn’t just use that tactic for the stimulus, either: he’s used the same approach to advocate for various policy pushes over the years. He’s always portrayed himself as the reasonable one trying to get things done in the face of entrenched opposition.

That strategy worked, though, only as long as Democrats controlled one of the houses of Congress. Then he could rely on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to shield him from tough decisions, keeping legislation he opposed from even reaching his desk. This created a buffer zone that allowed him to at least pretend to stay above the fray.

Now that Republicans control the Senate, the tables have been turned. Legislation with bipartisan support that President Obama opposes will find a way to his desk now, forcing him to use his veto power. He’ll have to actually enter directly into policy debates now, rather than relying on others to make his case for him. This happened with the first piece of legislation the new Congress took up: a bill to approve the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline project.

Regardless of which estimates you use, it is clear that the pipeline will create at the very least some temporary construction jobs — and likely more than that. They’re not seeking massive government funding to build it, just regulatory approval, and it’s supported by the states through which it would be built. Environmentalists, though, have long opposed the project, and they are a key part of President Obama’s base, so he vetoed the bill, sending it back to Congress.

Not only did Obama veto the bill, he made no attempt whatsoever to work with Congress on the issue. That makes it clear that he simply opposes the project, rather than the specific piece of legislation, even though it’s supported by many in his own party. This shows that he’s prioritized the environmental lobby over job creation, and that he isn’t willing to consider legislation that might create jobs if it doesn’t fit his own ideological requirements.

This is the same administration that was willing to spend taxpayer dollars bailing out auto companies and propping up solar power companies. These efforts, of course, nicely fit into his ideology: taxpayer bailouts validate big government and bring the private sector more closely under government control.

Obama might claim he supports job creation above all else, but vetoing a bipartisan jobs bill that he refused to negotiate with Congress about shows that’s simply empty rhetoric.

Jim Fossel

About Jim Fossel

Originally from Alna, Jim Fossel has volunteered with a number of campaigns over the years, including for Peter Mills for Governor in 2006. He previously worked for U.S. Senator Susan Collins and House Republican Leader Josh Tardy.