Keystone XL veto, homeland security shutdown: Who loves America now?

Mike: Well Cynthia, the president has vetoed the Keystone pipeline bill, and there probably won’t be enough votes to override. Are we entering the veto phase of the Obama presidency?

Cynthia: Maine families care a lot more about Congress funding the Department of Homeland Security in the face of domestic terrorist threats than they do about a pipeline thousands of miles away that will have no impact whatsoever on their day-to-day lives. I hope Republicans get grandstanding out of their system with the futile Keystone vote, roll up their sleeves and get to work governing as the majority party, don’t you?

Mike: People do care about infrastructure — including pipelines — and the jobs it can provide impacting their “day-to-day lives.” But I agree the Republicans must now govern. Maybe they should start with regulatory reform, since the Keystone XL pipeline was proposed in 2008 and the applicant is still awaiting a yea or nay. If the Obama administration wants to deny the permit, they should, but seven years of limbo cannot be construed as “governing.”

Cynthia: Hear, hear to regulatory reform! Something everyone supports and no one can achieve.

If the Transcanada Corporation doesn’t like waiting around for our bureaucracy to permit toxic tar sands to run through Main Street, America, it could always build a pipeline through eastern Canada, right?

With economic inequality such a concern, it’s surprising the GOP is willing to die on the sword for oil magnates, and hardly inspiring. Does Mitch McConnell even love America?

Mike: I’m not sure how the GOP is dying on the sword — “solid liberals” are the only group to oppose building it. As for that “solid liberal” bloc, wouldn’t you all prefer the pipeline go through those mean ol’ red states, instead of skirting near Maine by way of the Maritime provinces?

Cynthia: Many lawmakers “in the middle,” oppose the Keystone legislation on the merits, and because it circumvents a permitting process normally reserved for the executive branch. Importantly, also, oil industry-types now believe Keystone is unnecessary because the market has changed drastically in the past few years.

Keystone cops in Washington should focus on real national problems and building an international coalition against ISIS: Maine Republicans, who sustained over 170 vetoes of Gov. LePage and sat back while his executive branch drove Statoil’s proposed $120 million infrastructure investment too far offshore, shouldn’t complain about President Obama’s use of the veto pen for only the third time in five years.

Mike: Honestly, I find the argument that permits should not be issued by legislative fiat compelling. It is an overreach, like trying to legislate executive branch contracts. Better to pass real deadlines forcing the executive branch to make a decision instead of perpetual delay. Even a Democrat has to admit seven years is an absurd amount of time to spend in regulatory purgatory.

And I don’t begrudge the president his vetoes. It is his call, and it is up to the GOP to convince their colleagues or the American public that he is wrong. As for Statoil, I still don’t understand why Democrats wanted so badly to give a company which is majority-owned by a foreign government an electricity contract 450 percent above market. To steal your line: do they even love America?

Cynthia: The fix is in for patriotism litmus tests, especially ones created by partisans beating their chests for being “more American” than others while doing nothing to solve America’s problems. I’m willing to stipulate that President Obama, Mitch McConnell, Republicans and Democrats love America.

Speaking of tests, though, all eyes will be on Bruce Poliquin if the House of Representatives is asked to vote on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security without a rider nullifying Obama’s immigration orders. Will Maine’s new congressman cave to the far-right and vote against protecting the homeland to make a political statement about immigration?

Mike: DHS is going to be funded without a rider, and another bill will be sent to the president revoking his immigration orders that even Angus King will support. Although, for perspective, a “shutdown” of Homeland Security would mean 85 percent of the employees still show up to work. It would be a blow to morale, but the jobs they undertake would still be done.

That said, it is a poor way to run an organization — if a private business didn’t meet its payroll obligations, they would rightly catch hell! It is too bad that we are in this situation. If the president hadn’t played political games by holding his order until after the election, we might have had some progress.

Cynthia: It’s not the timing of the executive order that’s halting progress, it’s the coupling of immigration reform with funding a department charged with protecting the United States from terrorism. Republicans tried to hold the DHS hostage to immigration politics and failed.

Rather than the veto phase of the Obama presidency, what we are seeing is divided government. President Obama is rightfully using the power of his office to veto bills he opposes and executing policies he and Democrats support. Sen. McConnell is commended for steering the Senate out of the crazy game of chicken that had GOP disdain for the president’s immigration policy colliding with the need to fund Homeland Security. Let’s hope all who love America in the House of Representatives follow suit.

Mike: If he wants to execute policies that most Americans support, he can start with issuing a permit for Keystone and belatedly show that Washington can still work. If he is interested in only policies he and Democrats support, we’re in for a long two years!