WASHINGTON (AP) — Defiant congressional Republicans attacked President Barack Obama's agenda from all sides Tuesday, ignoring his veto threats and pushing bills to uproot his policies on immigration and Wall Street, force approval of a long energy pipeline he opposes and make him justify any new federal rules before he makes them.
Obama invited his antagonists to the White House for their first face-to-face meeting since the new Republican-controlled Congress convened, but their show of cordiality for the cameras did little to mask the partisan hostilities between Capitol Hill and the White House.
"The key now is for us to work as a team," said Obama, who has issued five veto threats with the new Congress not yet two weeks old. He cited taxes, trade and cybersecurity as areas for potential cooperation.
Back at the Capitol, the Senate debated legislation to force Obama's administration to build the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline, and the House moved toward a vote late Tuesday on a regulatory reform bill that the White House says would impose "unprecedented and unnecessary" requirements on agencies trying to write rules. It would require more justifications and notice.
That was to be followed by votes Wednesday on two other bills: One would alter a key section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul in a way that would help banks, and the other would block Obama's executive actions on immigration, including removal of protections for immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children. The Keystone bill passed the House last week and is expected to clear the Senate next week and head to Obama's desk.
Obama has threatened to veto all four pieces of legislation. Far from cowed, with the Senate in GOP hands for the first time in eight years Republican lawmakers are ready to make him do it.
"I'm a member of Congress; I'm not a potted plant. I don't take my orders from the White House," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., after Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss their strategy. "There's a new sheriff in the Senate, and so he's not going to have a compliant majority leader in the Senate who's going to bottle up and bury everything."
In contrast with the president's tone of cooperation, White House press secretary Josh Earnest chided Republican lawmakers, saying the GOP's approach to the opening days of the new Congress raises questions "about how serious they are about trying to work with the president."
"In the first five days that they've been in session, they've advanced five pieces of legislation all the way to the Rules Committee that they already know this president strongly opposes," he said.
Republicans had no plans to stop there.
Citing the terrorist attacks in Paris, Republican senators on Tuesday proposed restrictions on Obama's ability to transfer terror suspects out of the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the remainder of his term — making it more difficult for Obama to fulfill his goal of closing the facility.