Senate GOP defiant after veto threats

Senate GOP defiant after veto threats
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans were defiant Wednesday in the face of multiple veto threats from President Obama for the bills at the top of their legislative agenda.

"It seems with every new day we have a new veto threat from the president," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) said.

The Obama administration issued formal veto threats for bills that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline and raise the threshold for defining full-time work under ObamaCare from 30 to 40 hours per work. Senate Republicans are working to bring both bills to the floor, perhaps as early as next week.

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"The takeaway is that the president is not going to set the agenda for us here in the Senate. We have an agenda we believe can help save and create jobs for Americans,” McConnell said.

"If the president wants to be a part of that he can sign a bill that will make it to his desk, and if he doesn’t, I am sure he will make his best effort to explain to the American people why these measures are not in the best interest of the country.”

The White House and the new Senate Republican majority collided within hours of the start of the new, 114th Congress on Tuesday, with the bickering carrying over into Wednesday's work.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrying to kick tobacco again This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE (R-Texas) called the threats from Obama "petty gamesmanship" and said Republicans would not "take the bait."

"On one hand he says he wants to work with the majority in the Senate, on the other he is issuing premature veto threats before the legislation he says he is going to veto is voted out of committee and considered by the Senate and House," Cornyn said.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneImpeachment threatens to drown out everything Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   Embracing President Mike Pence might be GOP's best play MORE (R-S.D.) said the move to reject legislation before votes are held was a failure on Obama's part.

"The president has failed his first big test when it comes to working with the Congress for the American people," Thune said.

Republicans have vowed a return to regular order under their Senate majority, and McConnell has said he will allow an open amendment process when he brings the Keystone XL bill to the floor as early as next week.

"This is a new day in the United States Senate ... part of that is regular order," Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure Key Democrat presses FTC over Facebook settlement's 'dangerous precedent' Cyber rules for self-driving cars stall in Congress MORE (R-Miss.) said.

That’s something Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds DEA allowed more opioids even as overdose deaths rose | Judge temporarily blocks Georgia abortion law | Three states report more vaping deaths | Dem proposes new fix for surprise medical bills During impeachment storm, senators cross aisle to lessen mass incarceration MORE (D-Ill.) is excited about.

While Durbin is against both the Keystone XL pipeline and altering the 30-hour workweek definition under ObamaCare, he said he does "look forward" to the debate over amendments.

"I look forward to it because 31 of the 46 Democratic senators have never been in the minority. They are now going to be introduced to an amendment process that they are not familiar with," Durbin said.

"They are going to learn a lot: about the Senate, about themselves and about the dynamics of floor activity. I look forward to it, I've been anxious to return to this.”