The expected rejection of Keystone could herald a wave of vetoes — on legislation affecting healthcare, the environment, Iran sanctions and childhood nutrition — as Obama attempts to prevent lawmakers from rolling back his signature policies, assuming the stalemate between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress persists, The New York Times reported.
The veto threat has long been used by presidents in bargaining with Congress. In the course of his 12-year presidency, Democrat Franklin Roosevelt cast 635 vetoes. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, vetoed 12 pieces of legislation and Bill Clinton used the veto 37 times.
Observers predict that Obama will cast vetoes at Clinton-like levels, the Times reported.
In vetoing Keystone, passed by Congress on Feb. 11, the president is expected to argue that the legislative branch has taken upon itself powers reserved for the executive. He will assert that the final word on what to do about Keystone must be his, the Times reported.
"It's not just about the substance of the decision," said North Carolina Democratic Rep. David Price. "It's about the blatant challenge of the president's authority. That's why the veto will be upheld."
Price said that given how divided government is, Obama has few options but to use the veto to protect his legacy.
Congressional Democrats are maneuvering to head off Republicans from passing legislation that Obama would feel duty-bound to veto. Most legislation needs 60 votes to overcome the threat of a filibuster. Senate Republicans hold 54 seats.
Congress can override a president's veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers — though it has done so only infrequently.
To counter Obama's veto strategy, Republicans could send the president individual appropriations bills. Democrats would find these harder to block because they need only 51 votes to pass. The bills would contain riders that Obama opposes, pressuring him to veto funding for such departments as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Times reported.
"To avoid just vetoing everything and becoming the president of no," said Bill Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, "he's going to have to work with Congress, and they are going to have to work with him," the Times reported.
Environmental Protection Agency