If elected, Clin­ton will face fierce re­sis­tance,

If she wins, Demo­crat likely to face re­lent­less ob­struc­tion from the Repub­li­can Party

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - DANIEL DALE WASH­ING­TON BUREAU CHIEF

WASH­ING­TON— Hil­lary Clin­ton has a rep­u­ta­tion for cau­tious cen­trism. Her plat­form isn’t cau­tious or cen­trist. She is run­ning an am­bi­tious, lib­eral do­mes­tic pol­icy agenda that would take Amer­ica sig­nif­i­cantly fur­ther left.

If Congress were will­ing to co-op­er­ate. And it very prob­a­bly wouldn’t be.

A Clin­ton pres­i­dency would al­most cer­tainly face the same re­lent­less Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion that has frus­trated Barack Obama. Pass­ing any im­por­tant law would be dif­fi­cult. Like Obama, Clin­ton would prob­a­bly have to find cre­ative and con­tro­ver­sial ways to cir­cum­vent Congress.

“I’d vote against some­thing mean­ing­ful hap­pen­ing leg­isla­tively in the next cou­ple years,” said Wil­liam How­ell, a Univer­sity of Chicago po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor who stud­ies the pres­i­dency. “Where we see change, big change: it’s not likely to be through leg­is­la­tion. It’s go­ing to be on the in­ter­na­tional front through treaty-mak­ing and ex­ec­u­tive agree­ments, it’s go­ing to be do­mes­ti­cally through rule-mak­ing.”

The leg­isla­tive is­sue is the di­vided, hy­per­con­ser­va­tive state of the Repub­li­can Party. The party has veered sharply to the right since the end of the Ge­orge W. Bush pres­i­dency, es­pe­cially in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Polls sug­gest the Democrats are un­likely to win back con­trol of the House on Tues­day. And Speaker Paul Ryan, who is no mod­er­ate but also no mem­ber of the party’s burn- down-the-house in­sur­gent fac­tion, will prob­a­bly face so much rightwing pres­sure that his speak­er­ship may quickly be in peril from the same Free­dom Cau­cus forces that made John Boehner mis­er­able.

“The in­sur­gents who top­ple an es­tab­lish­ment do not go away. They never have in the past,” said Sa­muel Pop­kin, a Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego pro­fes­sor who ad­vised the Bill Clin­ton cam­paign in 1992 and is work­ing on a book called Repub­li­can Crackup and the Fu­ture of Pres­i­den­tial Pol­i­tics. “They never dis­ap­pear. They re­or­ga­nize.”

Repub­li­cans have been trans­par­ent about their mo­tives. Aban­don­ing even the pre­tense of will­ing­ness to work with the new pres­i­dent, some House Repub­li­cans have al­ready an­nounced that they would not only ob­struct Clin­ton at every turn but in­ves­ti­gate her for al­leged pre-pres­i­dency mis­deeds.

“Even be­fore we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of ma­te­rial al­ready lined up,” Utah Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz, chair of the House over­sight com­mit­tee, told the Wash­ing­ton Post in Oc­to­ber. He added: “She’s not get­ting a clean slate.”

The un­usual dec­la­ra­tions of war have not been lim­ited to the House. Three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have said or sug­gested they would at­tempt to block any nom­i­nee Clin­ton puts for­ward to fill the va­cancy on the Supreme Court, leav­ing the court with eight mem­bers.

They are un­likely to suc­ceed on that front, but their gen­eral re­fusal to co-op­er­ate would be buoyed by Clin­ton’s un­pop­u­lar­ity — with the party base, much of which be­lieves she is a crim­i­nal, but also more gen­er­ally. If Clin­ton beats Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump on Tues­day, as polls sug­gest she is likely to do, she would be the most un­pop­u­lar per­son to win a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­tory.

“This driv­ing force on the far right to take it to the Democrats and cer­tainly Hil­lary Clin­ton is go­ing to be a real im­ped­i­ment to a Clin­ton pres­i­dency,” How­ell said. “Even if she didn’t have these big neg­a­tive rat­ings, she’d face big chal­lenges, par­tic­u­larly on the leg­isla­tive front . . . but at the mar­gin, it does not help that she’s com­ing in with neg­a­tives above 50 per cent.”

There is much Clin­ton can do with­out Repub­li­can help. Obama has given her a tem­plate for gov­ern­ing through uni­lat­eral ac­tion. And the pres­i­dent has a free hand in many for­eign af­fairs mat­ters.

Clin­ton would, for ex­am­ple, get to kill the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship — if she is in­deed sin­cere about her new-found op­po­si­tion — and put the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin of the Key­stone XL pipeline from Al­berta. She would be able to pur­sue a harder line with Rus­sia and a warm­ing of re­la­tions with Is­rael. And as com­man­der-inchief, she could change U.S. strat­egy in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

It is her ex­pan­sive do­mes­tic pro­gram that ap­pears least likely to be­come re­al­ity. She has vowed to im- me­di­ately pur­sue com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form that would of­fer a path to ci­ti­zen­ship for il­le­gal im­mi­grants. She has adopted most of Bernie San­ders’s plan to make pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties tu­ition-free for most stu­dents. And she has promised uni­ver­sal ac­cess to preschool, tens of bil­lions to make child care more af­ford­able, sharp tax hikes for the very rich, and uni­ver­sal back­ground checks for gun pur­chases.

Per­haps the most likely pro­posal to get through Congress is one of the least sexy: in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing.

Top Obama bud­get of­fi­cial Peter Orszag, among other experts, thinks she has a chance of win­ning bi­par­ti­san ap­proval for her pro­posal for $275 bil­lion in new in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing over five years. Trump has also called for a big boost in in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing.

“I can’t imag­ine that that wouldn’t give the Repub­li­cans con­vul­sions,” said Pop­kin. “How are they — some of them are go­ing to say, ‘It’s money, we shouldn’t spend it,’ but most of them are go­ing to say, ‘We need the jobs, we need the roads, we need the bridges.’ . . . I hope that’s the first thing she does.”

A Clin­ton pres­i­dency may end up be­ing most con­se­quen­tial, on the do­mes­tic front at least, for pro­tect­ing Obama achieve­ments. Trump, for ex­am­ple, wants to re­peal Oba­macare. Clin­ton would keep it and try to tweak it. Trump, who does not be­lieve cli­mate change is real, wants to scrap Obama’s land­mark lim­its on car­bon emis­sions from power plants. Clin­ton would keep them.

“In this elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Obama’s en­tire legacy is on the line,” she said on Thurs­day in North Carolina, and she was not wrong.

BREN­DAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Some House Repub­li­cans have al­ready an­nounced that they would ob­struct Clin­ton at every turn and in­ves­ti­gate al­leged pre-pres­i­dency mis­deeds.

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