Los Angeles Daily News: Local members of Congress see onslaught of anti-Obama bills, some common ground
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By Steve Scauzillo - 11/5/2014
The mostly Democractic Southern California caucus, fresh from celebrating easy victories in safe districts, were bracing themselves Wednesday for an onslaught of anti-Obama bills that could for the first time come to fruition in the U.S. Senate.
After a mid-term election that gave the Republicans control of the Senate to add to their control of the House of Representatives, local members expect to see bills calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and weakening of environmental regulations to get through both legislative bodies.
However, some said the Republicans, led by next Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, really don’t want to shoot down Obamacare because it would leave millions of constituents without health care, an outcome that could backfire.
As such, they expect more gamesmanship in which bills are moved forward but won’t make it past the 60-vote requirement to deflect a filibuster. Or certain bills may pass if Republicans get some Democrats to sign on, but these will not become law because they will be vetoed by the president.
“There will be a lot of pressure on the GOP leadership to have symbolic votes for their base. It is something they feel they have to do,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, whose district stretches from West Hollywood to Pasadena.
Environmental groups expect the flurry of anti-environment bills present in the House for almost three years to become a blizzard now that the Senate has reportedly chosen Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, to head the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Inhofe does not believe in a human impact on climate change and once compared the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to the gestapo.
When the change takes place next year, Inhofe will take the chairmanship from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a senator with a strong commitment to environmental progress.
The Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, a majority in the 100-seat chamber, but not enough to stop a filibuster, which requires 60 votes. Still, Tuesday’s mid-term election was a clear victory for the GOP and some Democrats are blaming the sinking approval ratings of President Obama.
Many newly elected Republican senators in Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina rode a wave of disapproval of President Obama and his policies, exit polls show. That connection could unleash a litany of bills that attempt to reverse Obama’s environmental policies.
“They (Senate Republicans) will use the power of the gavel to go after environmental issues. In particular, those they think will assail the Obama legacy,” said Melinda Pierce, legislative director of the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C.
Many expect bills that will weaken the power of the EPA, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
Specifically, clean air advocates in Los Angeles foresee a fight over a court ruling set to take effect in December that says the current EPA safety standard for ozone pollution, the most common element in smog, needs to be lowered to better protect public health.
Others predict a bill that will reverse the president’s opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline which would take oil from underground shale reserves in western Canada and transport it to refineries in the United States. Proponents say it would help create energy independence but environmental groups and many Democrats say the emissions of greenhouse gases that will further exacerbate global climate change.
“We have faced hundreds of votes like this under (House Speaker John) Boehner. It was essentially a sideshow. These votes were dead in the Senate. Now, the Senate can actually vote on them,” Pierce said.
Congressman-elect Ted Lieu, who will succeed long-time Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, who is retiring, said he will vote no on any bill that softens environmental laws or threatens healthcare, Social Security and a woman’s right to choose.
Lieu, along with Schiff, said they see both parties working together on many issues, including roads, rail and highway funding.
“A major transportation bill is a great opportunity for Congress to work together. It is nothing we can’t overcome if both parties are willing to compromise,” Schiff said.
Last July, Congress patched together an extension of funding for the nearly bankrupt Highway Trust Fund that expires in May. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, wants to see an infrastructure bill that lasts for five years. She has not yet decided if a tunnel connecting the 710 Freeway gap from Alhambra to Pasadena is viable.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, whose district includes Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Pico Rivera, Whittier, La Mirada and La Palma, said she wants to see both sides come together and pass comprehensive immigration reform. What sounds like a tall order may be a possibility, said Sanchez and Schiff.
Sanchez said Republicans should realize it would be better for Congress to act, unless they want to see the president issue an executive order.
Schiff and Lieu believe the two sides share common ground on other issues, such as reining in the National Security Agency and asking for a vote in Congress to use military force in Syria against the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State or ISIS.
President Obama on Wednesday asked the Congress to vote on an authorization bill. Authorization of the temporary training of military advisers in Syria expires in December. “I think it is constitutionally required,” Schiff said.