Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Can Obama Regain His Lost Leverage on Spending?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
How much money Obama gets to implement his agenda will come down to whether the president will finally use his veto power to bring House Republicans to heel.

The real fight in Congress in September isn’t over Obamacare. It’s about the money.

After all, the money is crucial to how much of President Barack Obama’s tattered agenda will be implemented in his second term. And how much money he gets may come down to whether the president will finally use his veto power to bring House Republicans to heel.

Unlike in 2011, when Republicans successfully held a critical debt limit increase hostage to extract more than $2 trillion in spending cuts, Obama no longer has to worry about a default crisis imperiling his re-election. His charm offensive with Senate Republicans aimed at reaching a budget deal has been a dud so far. He’s signed little of consequence since being sworn in for a second term in January.

But one bill Congress will have to send him this fall is the measure keeping the government open past Sept. 30.

His signature — or veto — on that bill is the biggest piece of legislative leverage he has left.

So far, Speaker John A. Boehner has promised to play hardball on spending, because he believes it’s a fight Republicans can win. But the speaker also has been resisting calls from the right for a shutdown showdown over defunding Obamacare, which the speaker’s allies dismiss as a fool’s errand.

Boehner told lawmakers on Aug. 22 that he plans to pass a stopgap continuing resolution that would keep in place the sequester spending cuts that have become a tourniquet on Obama’s second-term ambitions.

Will Obama cave yet again — as he did in March when he signed a bill that allowed the spending cuts to continue unabated?

Or will he use a veto threat to demand funding for his priorities?

The White House won’t say and, by all public accounts, the president hasn’t decided yet what to do. But all those grand visions and soaring speeches about investing in his priorities won’t amount to much if he can’t get Congress to cough up the cash.

Boehner doesn’t think Obama can credibly risk a shutdown aimed at forcing Congress to spend more money.

“The American people won’t stand for it, and we’re not going to be swayed by it,” he told his conference.

“The president’s desperation to rid himself of sequestration is apparent, but any effort — or even threat — to shut down the government over it will surely backfire,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “Sequestration is bad policy, but after all his blown predictions, the president has very little credibility on the issue.”

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