No lame duck president

For those who expected President Barack Obama to spend his final two years in office curled up in the fetal position after the thunderclap of Republican victories in the midterm election, better brace yourselves. Returning from his diplomatic trip to Asia — historic agreement with China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in hand — he's expected to soon announce a sweeping change in immigration policy that could spare millions from deportation.

And that's after Mr. Obama made clear last week his support for treating broadband as a common carrier and thus ensuring net neutrality. Such a position puts him at odds with Comcast and certain other Internet providers who would like to charge higher rates for faster access to certain content. But it's also a position entirely consistent with what Mr. Obama promised as early as 2008.


Indeed, what do all these policy efforts have in common? They represent the issues upon which the president campaigned and was twice elected to the nation's highest office. Mr. Obama promised immigration reform, he promised a broad-based effort to address climate change, and he promised net neutrality. If the election taught Democrats anything, it should be that you can't run and hide from your political viewpoint — as so many weak-kneed Democratic candidates did to no avail in the weeks leading up to Nov. 4.

Sorry, but Republican claims that Mr. Obama is failing to moderate his positions in the manner of Bill Clinton don't wash. In most respects, the president's efforts are already centrist. Net neutrality echoes the conservatives' view that the economic playing field should be kept level so that deep-pocketed interests can't squeeze out start-ups. Immigration reform was the goal of George W. Bush, and concerns over climate change are based on science, not politics.


What's laughable is to hear threats from people like Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner that Mr. Obama is somehow poisoning the well in Washington by using executive powers instead of waiting for Congress to dither, dally and do nothing. What's next, an offer to sell us the Washington Monument? We have seen this game played for six years — the "well" has never been less wholesome looking. The Republicans have no intention of giving an inch to the current occupant of the White House. Their internal debate is only about whether to go crazy and shut down the government.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ought to take a lesson from this and keep his chamber busy during the lame duck session, not only on the budget for the next 10 months but on a host of matters that are meaningful to Democrats and the country. They include funding transportation, addressing cyber-security and reforming the U.S. Postal Service. All are overdue, and election-related turnover gives Congress a unique opportunity to pass legislation that requires greater political courage than the do-nothing 113th has generally demonstrated.

If the Senate is going to make time for Sen. Mary Landrieu's effort to fast-track Canada's Keystone XL pipeline, a project of questionable value at a time of record domestic oil production and falling gas prices, then it can find time to vote on raising the gas tax and spare the nation from the continuing ignominy of borrowing billions from China to pay for pot hole repair. That even big trucking companies want to see the tax on diesel raised should tell you all you need to know about the government's bankrupt Highway Trust Fund.

We expect this week's announcement on immigration, a plan likely to involve redirecting the efforts of immigration agents to secure the southern border and go after criminals rather than deport those who have lived in this country productively for years, to raise howls from GOP leadership. That's their choice, just as it's Mr. Obama's decision not to turn his back on the job voters across America elected him to do — twice.