Obama’s late-hour gains

The president is pushing through an obstructionist Congress

If congressional Republicans thought President Obama would cower and retreat following Democrats’ shellacking in the 2014 midterm elections, they have another think coming. The president hasn’t pulled back; rather, he’s gone on the offensive, using his executive powers to accomplish what Congress was unwilling to do.

Perhaps the most consequential action was his decision to provide a mechanism whereby millions of unauthorized immigrants can avoid deportation and families can be protected from being torn apart. And, in a move also certain to resonate among Latinos throughout the Americas, he normalized relations with Cuba, ending a 50-year-long embargo that has failed to topple that country’s socialist government.

These developments have received a great deal of publicity. Less well-known are Obama’s many substantial environmental actions. Using the Clean Air Act as his foundation, he has issued a series of landmark regulations on air pollution. Most recently, he issued a regulation that will reduce ozone, a key contributor to smog.

According to The New York Times, this is the sixth new rule intended to rein in hazardous air pollutants, including soot, mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxide. Also targeted are vehicular releases of carbon dioxide, the principal cause of climate change. More rules are on the way.

And let’s not forget that, on Nov. 11, Obama reached a monumental, historic deal with China aimed at the reduction of greenhouse gases.

The president also took a strong stand for Internet neutrality, calling on federal regulators to toughen their proposed net-neutrality laws by subjecting broadband providers to stricter utility-like regulations.

Meanwhile, much to the consternation of conservatives, the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of Obama’s first term, is working well after one year. More than 10 million Americans who previously lacked health insurance now have it—and a new sense of security.

The president also has enjoyed success in the lame-duck Senate, which in mid-December confirmed nearly all of his pending nominees, more than 90 of them, for federal judgeships, as well as his surgeon-general nominee, Vivek Murthy.

This president keeps his cool. When the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa and isolated cases emerged in this country, some panicky politicians began calling for closure of our borders and even imprisonment of travelers arriving from certain countries. Instead, the president calmly deferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did a superb job of keeping the virus from spreading further.

In response to foreign threats, the president’s steady-as-she-goes policy of containment while avoiding actual warfare seems to be working. The so-called Islamic State has been pushed back, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is feeling intense pressure at home as Obama-backed economic sanctions, the drop in oil prices and the devaluation of the ruble have brought his country’s economy to its knees.

The U.S. economy, in contrast, is now the most robust in the world. As the economist Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate, has pointed out, “recent data suggest that the economy is gathering strength—5 percent growth in the last quarter!” Prices in the stock market recently hit a historic high, and “growth and job creation have been substantially faster during the Obama recovery than they were during the Bush recovery last decade,” Krugman writes.

This president isn’t perfect—no president is—but, as his actions since the November elections demonstrate, Barack Obama has been remarkably successful at making government work for the American people, despite the obstructionism of congressional Republicans. The president’s actions are largely popular with voters, so the Republican-controlled Congress should be careful about trying to roll them back. The 2016 elections are coming up soon enough.