Biden’s first veto defends ESG rule on pensions

Only two Senate Democrats voted in favor of the measure, making lifting of Biden’s veto unlikely.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday vetoed the first of his presidency to alter the White House’s relationship with the new Congress since Republicans took control of the House in January — a move seen as a prelude to larger struggles with GOP lawmakers continue to serve government spending and the nation’s debt limit.

Biden sought to thwart a measure authored by Republicans that would prevent the administration from considering it environmental influences or potential lawsuits in people’s retirement investment decisions. In a video released by the White House, Biden said he vetoed the measure because it “endangers the retirement savings of individuals across the country.”

His first veto represents a more confrontational approach midway through Biden’s tenure as he faces a GOP-controlled House keen to undo parts of his political legacy and probe his administration and family. To make matters worse, several Democratic senators are up for re-election next year in conservative states, giving them political incentive to put distance between themselves and the White House.

The measure, rejected by Biden, would have effectively reinstated a Trump-era ban on federal administrator pension plans, taking factors such as climate change, social impacts or pending court cases into account when making investment decisions.

The veto could also help calm the anger of environmentalists who have been upset by the Biden administration’s recent decision to greenlight the Willow oil project, a massive and controversial drilling project in Alaska.

“The President vetoed the law because it jeopardizes the hard-earned life savings of police officers, firefighters, teachers and other workers,” said White House spokeswoman Robyn Patterson.

But critics say so-called environmental, social and governance investments allocate funds based on political agendas like fighting climate change, rather than delivering the best returns for savers. Republicans in Congress who pushed the measure said environmental or social considerations in government investments are just another example of being “woken up.”

“In his first veto, Biden just sided with the woke Wall Street over workers,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted Monday. “Tells you exactly where his priorities lie.” He said, “It’s clear that Biden wants Wall Street to use your retirement savings to fund his far-left political causes.”

Biden’s veto should prevail. Only three Democrats in Congress — one in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate — supported Republicans on the issue, making it unlikely that a two-thirds majority in both houses could be assembled to override Biden’s veto.

Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, was the only Democrat to support the resolution in the House of Representatives, while Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Joe Manchin, DW.Va., supported it in the Senate. Golden is a constant target of Republicans trying to oust him from his conservative precinct while Tester and Manchin both run for re-election next year.

“This administration continues to prioritize its radical political agenda over our country’s economic, energy and national security needs, and that is absolutely galling,” Manchin said in a statement.

Though Biden was quick to veto the investment decision, other actions by Capitol Hill could pose a tougher challenge for the White House in the coming weeks and months.

The administration initially signaled Biden would oppose a Republican-authored measure that would overrule a crime measure passed by the District of Columbia Council, but the president later said he would sign it, and did so on Monday. He also signed a bill directing the federal government to release intelligence information related to the origins of COVID-19.

Biden’s immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, vetoed 10 bills during his tenure, while Barack Obama vetoed 12, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Both had overridden one of their vetoes from Congress.

The president with the most vetoes was Franklin Delano Roosevelt – who was elected to four terms before a constitutional amendment limited all presidents to two – with 635 vetoes. Six US Presidents have never vetoed any law while in office. Biden’s first veto defends ESG rule on pensions

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