Obama heads home to conflict
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – After a productive trip abroad, President Barack Obama returned home yesterday on a collision course with Republicans on immigration and an oil pipeline project, showdowns that threaten prospects for cooperation over his remaining two years in office.
The contentious immigration debate could mean a year-end fight over keeping the government running, if some GOP lawmakers get their way.
On the foreign policy front, there is a November 24 deadline in nuclear negotiations with Iran, and questions are surfacing within the administration about whether to overhaul U.S. policy toward Syria.
Given his faltering political support in the U.S. and his party’s recent election losses, his trip to China, Myanmar and Australia appeared to offer respite.
The president, who arrived in Washington late yesterday, basked in policy breakthroughs with China and warm welcomes in Myanmar and Australia.
“I intend to build on that momentum when I return home,” Obama said at a news conference before heading home.
When Obama set off for the Asia Pacific, both the White House and Republicans were suggesting that the GOP’s decisive takeover of the Senate could pave the way for bipartisan breakthroughs. But just two weeks after the election, that optimism largely has faded, making it increasingly likely that Washington will churn through two more years of gridlock.
Republicans attribute the swift shift in tone largely to Obama’s plans to move forward with executive actions on immigration that potentially could shield from deportation about five million immigrants who are living in the United States illegally. The president has pledged to announce the measures before year’s end; he could act shortly after returning to Washington.
The incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has warned that such executive actions would “poison the well” with the new Republican-led Senate and could prevent the GOP from working with Obama on other potential areas of agreement.
Republican leaders are considering what to do if Obama presses ahead. More conservative members want to use upcoming spending bills to block the president, but that could set the stage for a showdown for another government shutdown.
Obama said that possible threat would not dictate his timing in flexing his powers. He said is main concern “is getting it right”.