Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The newly elected Republican-led House was peacefully sworn into office Thursday as GOP leaders began planning for four years of divided government.

If you thought the past year was a rocky one, 2013 may make the political trench warfare battles of 2012 look like a Sunday school picnic.

Soon after the smoke cleared in the wee hours of New Year's Day, when Congress had taken the government to the precipice of the "fiscal cliff," and even a bit over, it was clear that ever more contentious battles awaited incoming lawmakers.

There were the automatic spending cuts buried in the fiscal cliff business that Congress put off until March 1. And in late March, a critical funding bill to keep the federal government operating is due to expire. The bet here is the government will not shut down, but the tea party warriors are angry and looking for some budget scalps.

Meantime, a bitter debt-ceiling war is likely to be fought once again -- this time on the Treasury Department's request to lift the nation's $16.4 trillion legal borrowing limit by another $2 trillion or more to pay the government's bills.

President Obama petulantly warned Congress this week that he will not tolerate "another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up."

Oh, really. Apparently, Obama skipped class on the day his Harvard constitutional law professor dealt with the part of our governing document that states Congress is a co-equal branch of government. It can debate everything and anything it wants, whether the chief executive likes it or not.

And if any fiscal issue needs a prolonged, thorough and critical debate on the House and Senate floor nowadays, it is the monstrous and unsustainable size of our debt, which threatens our financial future.

And what's this business about paying off "the bills that they've (meaning the Congress) already racked up"? Members of Congress, who've been spending like there's no tomorrow on our credit card, deserve a huge share of the blame.

But Obama is hardly blameless. He's been a willing accomplice in the spending binge of the past four years, working hand-in-glove with the drunken spenders in Congress, signing massively costly bills like his national health care law (more on this one later).

Congress has the power to authorize spending and to appropriate such funds as it sees fit, but the president also has the power to block such spending with the stroke of a pen. It's called the veto, a budget-balancing tool he didn't use in his first four years and isn't likely to use in his next four.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.