President Biden is expected to issue the first veto of his tenure in the White House and add to the list of more than 2,500 such actions taken by presidents since 1789. In the face of the Senate’s decision disallowing retirement plan managers from including climate and social considerations in their investment decisions, Biden may find himself seeking to act “historically” rather than in harmony with Congress.
On March 1, Democrat Sens. Jon Tester (MT) and Joe Manchin (WV) joined 48 Republicans in approving a resolution that strikes down the Biden administration’s rule. Biden’s advisers have indicated that the president is ready to use the power of the pen to derail the resolution.
A Veto Fit for a King
At issue is the question of whether investment heads should be permitted to take into consideration environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when deciding how to grow the funds they are responsible for managing. “The Biden administration wants retirement plan managers to invest people’s retirement funds based not on the best return for the money — nope — based on woke ideology,” Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) warned.
A key GOP argument for the resolution was that such considerations would ultimately lead to “disinvestment” in fossil fuels. This element was almost certainly the deciding factor for Sens. Tester and Manchin, who both hail from states that rely on jobs and tax revenue generated by the industry. Manchin noted that “ESGs by itself could just kill our economy.”
All indications from the White House suggest Joe Biden will use the first veto of his presidency to keep the Labor Department rule in place.
But Wait … There’s More
The ESG ban is not the only piece of legislation that could fall victim to the veto pen. The Washington, DC, City Council in January passed the Local Residential Rights Amendment Act, which would allow noncitizens to vote, but there is a fly in the legislative ointment. Due to DC’s unique standing, Congress has the right to weigh in on potential regulations with federal oversight.
Republicans are hoping to force a vote on the Act – and must do so before March 14 – in order to rescind it. With Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) presently recovering in Walter Reed Hospital and Joe Manchin having indicated that he opposes allowing noncitizens access to the ballot box, the GOP might just get its way. However, the president could prove an inconvenient roadblock. As Liberty Nation’s James Fite reported:
“President Biden has yet to exercise the power of the veto, and there has so far been no White House statement regarding the DC measures. A presidential veto, however, would allow the [bill] to become law, and it’s entirely possible – should the Senate kill [the] package – Biden will feel obligated to act ‘historically.'”
House Democrats had hoped that the president would use his very first veto to block the overturning of the District of Columbia’s new crime bill that seeks to eliminate most mandatory sentences and lower penalties for a number of violent offenses. However, an abrupt change of heart has left his party reeling. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that “the president believes in … making sure that the streets in America and communities across the country are safe, that includes in DC. That does not change,” adding, “When it comes to what this proposal brings forth, which is really lowering penalties for car-jacking, he doesn’t believe that’s going to keep our communities safe.” The president tweeted, “I support D.C. Statehood and home-rule – but I don’t support some of the changes D.C. Council put forward over the Mayor’s objections … If the Senate votes to overturn what D.C. Council did – I’ll sign it.”
An anonymous lower-chamber politician messaged The Hill expressing disdain for Biden’s refusal to veto, writing, “The White House f—- this up royally… So a lot of us who are allies voted no in order to support what the White House wanted. And now we are being hung out to dry,” the outlet reports. “F—– AMATEUR HOUR. HEADS SHOULD ROLL OVER AT THE WHITE HOUSE OVER THIS.”
Using the presidential veto is, without doubt, a bipartisan endeavor. Donald Trump issued ten, Barack Obama clocked in at 12 – as did GW Bush. Bill Clinton opted to kill a massive 39 bills in his eight years, but Bush Senior – in just a single term – used his power 44 times. Each of these former presidents paling in comparison to the Gipper, who has 78 vetoes under his belt. Reagan notably said that “If a tax hike makes it to my desk, I’ll veto it in less time than it takes Vanna White to turn the letters V-E-T-O!”
While not all of these vetoes survived (a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate can overrule a presidential veto), their application has historically been ubiquitous, with an average of 55 per presidency.
Joe Biden will likely face criticism when he enters the interdiction pantheon, and yet it is his right to exercise that power. However, he would do well – as would any president – to take to heart the wise words of C.S. Lewis, who said: “The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms), no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”
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