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GOP still aims to make Obama a failed president

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 1/17/2013, 9:16 a.m.

GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell drew much derision for falling flat in fulfilling his oft repeated goal to make President Obama a one-term president.

Obama’s smash electoral vote and solid popular vote win made the GOP’s aim seem more comical. The fiscal cliff battle seemed to render it even more absurd.

Obama was the big winner. He preserved the Bush tax cuts for the middle and working class, got a big portion of cuts scrapped for the highest income earners, took Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid off the budget slice table, delayed debate on proposed draconian GOP budget cuts that will slam the poor and needy, and delayed the battle over the debt ceiling.

But that was just the opening shot of what the GOP loudly claims will be a bitter fight to stymie President Obama’s second term presidency. The GOP is under even more intense pressure from ultra conservatives who have screamed at those GOP congresspersons for supposedly giving too much away to Obama in the fiscal cliff debate and not taking the hardest line stance they could against deals.

GOP House leaders reeling from the criticism say they won’t even consider talking with Obama behind closed doors in the future to try to iron out their differences. McConnell went further and couched his war-like challenge to Obama as a battle to save the nation’s future.

The GOP has several formidable weapons to hammer Obama. One is its power to say no in Congress. It has done that repeatedly in the Senate on one issue that has flown under the public’s radar. It has refused to confirm legions of Obama’s judicial appointees. He’s had fewer of his judicial picks confirmed than any first-term president in the last quarter century. That includes even district court nominees.

In years past, their confirmation has been routine. The GOP has given no hint that it will reverse course and approve many of his picks in the future. Conservative judges have already shown they can obstruct Obama administration policies with their anti-environmental, anti-gun control and pro-corporate rulings. GOP leaders also showed that they will harass, harangue and try to intimidate Obama on his cabinet picks.

The GOP’s assault on the possible nomination of UN ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was a prime example of that. Rice’s withdrawal from consideration under pressure will only embolden the GOP to use the tactic to constantly send the message that it has the political muscle to get some of its way on public policy issues, and to keep the Obama administration off balance. Its next target will be Chuck Hagel, Obama’s pick for Secretary of Defense.

The GOP also can delay and obstruct implementation and funding of health care reforms, tax and budget proposals, and regulatory reforms that still need bipartisan cooperation to pass. This is crucial since Obama needs to strike deals and make compromises with the GOP to get anything done in Congress. That necessity is even more compelling given the coming, potentially rancorous battle over the debt ceiling, immigration reform, spending cuts, and reforms of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.