Con­tours of Obama’s legacy form with help from op­po­si­tion party


Long past the prime of his pres­i­dency, Barack Obama is so­lid­i­fy­ing the con­tours of his legacy with the help of un­likely al­lies in Congress and the Supreme Court.

Led by Chief Jus­tice John Roberts, the high court pre­served Obama’s sig­na­ture health care l aw Thurs­day, hours be­fore a Repub­li­can­con­trolled Congress paved the way for an Asia- Pa­cific trade pact at the cen­ter of the pres­i­dent’s in­ter­na­tional agenda. The Supreme Court also handed Obama a sur­prise win by up­hold­ing a key tool used to fight hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“This was a good day for Amer­ica,” Obama said, speak­ing from the White House Rose Gar­den shortly af­ter the court rul­ings.

Fo r a pres­i­dent deep into his sec­ond term, the le­gal and leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries were a vin­di­ca­tion of pol­icy pri­or­i­ties that have sapped his po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal and ex­posed rifts with his own Demo­cratic Party. The back- to- back suc­cesses also en­er­gized a weary White House, with se­nior of­fi­cials and long­time ad­vis­ers mak­ing lit­tle ef­fort to hide their glee.

The com­ing days could bring fur­ther clar­ity to pres­i­dent’s legacy, as U.S. ne­go­tia­tors work fever­ishly to fi­nal­ize a nu­clear deal with Iran ahead of a June 30 dead­line. While se­cur­ing an elu­sive agree­ment would mark a ma­jor for­eign pol­icy break­through for Obama, it could be months or even years be­fore it’s known if a deal suc­cess­fully pre­vents Iran from build­ing a bomb.

Against the back­drop of his re­cent suc­cesses, Obama will also con­front the stark lim­i­ta­tions of his pres­i­dency when he trav­els to Charleston, South Carolina, Fri­day to de­liver a eu­logy for vic­tims of last week’s mas­sacre at a black church. Obama has failed to make any progress on gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion, and even against the back­drop of the tragedy in South Carolina, he made clear he had given up hope of pur­su­ing such mea­sures again dur­ing his re­main­ing 19 months in of­fice.

De­spite the un­fin­ished busi­ness Obama will leave be­hind, Thurs­day’s health care rul­ing largely an­swered what has long been one of the big­gest ques­tions loom­ing over his White House: Would the sweep­ing health care over­haul that has fu­eled so much Repub­li­can hos­til­ity to­ward Obama sur­vive his pres­i­dency?

Now, that an­swer guar­an­teed to be yes.

The Supreme Court


all but

rul­ing marked the sec­ond time the jus­tices have saved the health care law, with Roberts writ­ing the ma­jor­ity opin­ion both times. In an ironic twist, Obama as a sen­a­tor voted against Roberts when he was nom­i­nated by for­mer Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

While House Repub­li­cans may still hold votes to re­peal the health care mea­sure, as they have al­ready done more than 50 times, the Se­nate and Obama’s veto power pre­vent such ef­forts from go­ing any fur­ther. And even if Obama is suc­ceeded by a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent, fully re­peal­ing the law could be­come less po­lit­i­cally palat­able given the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who have gained health care cov­er­age through its man­dates.

Stil l , s ome Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in­sisted that re­mained their goal.

“This de­ci­sion is not the end of the fight against Oba­macare,” said Jeb Bush, the for­mer Florida gover­nor. “I will work with Congress to re­peal and re­place this flawed law with con­ser­va­tive re­forms that em­power con­sumers with more choices and con­trol over their health care de­ci­sions.”

Obama had to flip Washington’s stan­dard po­lit­i­cal score­card in or­der to get sup­port for the Asia-Pa­cific trade pact. While Repub­li­cans are largely sup­port­ive of free trade, many of Obama’s fel­low Democrats fear such agree­ments put Amer­i­can work­ers at a disad­van­tage and have weak en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions.

Just two weeks ago, Democrats dealt Obama an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat on trade, leav­ing him search­ing for a so­lu­tion with many of the same Repub­li­cans law­mak­ers who de­cry the health care law.

The un­usual coali­tion suc­ceeded. On Wed­nes­day, Obama se­cured the au­thor­ity to get fast ap­proval for a fi­nal Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship deal, and on Thurs­day, Congress sent a work­ers’ as­sis­tance pack­age to his desk.

White House of­fi­cials cast Obama’s suc­cess­ful deal­ings with Repub­li­cans as ev­i­dence of what they had hoped would be another piece of the pres­i­dent’s legacy: an abil­ity to work with his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and curb Washington’s in­tense par­ti­san­ship.

But few in the White House or else­where in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal ex­pect this brief de­tente be­tween Obama and the Repub­li­cans to last for long, es­pe­cially as they stare down dead­lines this fall on taxes and spend­ing — is­sues that have ri­valed health care in driv­ing deep di­vi­sions be­tween the Demo­cratic White House and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

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