With Democrats no longer in control of the House of Representatives, Mr. Obama will not be able to pass any major Democratic policy initiatives now, no matter how much political capital he might be willing to stake on them. Meanwhile, the Republicans control only the House, not the Senate. In contrast to Bill Clinton — who faced opposition control of both houses of Congress after his first midterm election — Mr. Obama may never have to use his veto pen.I suspect that the whirlwind last two years of the historic 111th Congress have thrown off everyone's normal expectations of how things work, and a bit of a re-set is in order. The current Congress, of course, is not going to pass anything as major as the ACA or the failed climate/energy bill. However, recall that Bill Clinton was able to get both S-CHIP and a significant minimum wage increase through Republican Congresses in the 1990s. Is there any possibility of a similar success now? Sure; education fits that well. If the current balance persists, I could easily imagine an S-CHIP sized climate bill with a fighting chance, but as Matt Yglesias notes the president seems to be just surrendering, for now, on that issue. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a new initiative next year, however.
Don't forget that welfare reform, too, was a Clinton initiative, although I don't think there's anything really analogous in the Obama playbook. Instead, we're more likely to get non-ideological technocrat things such as tax reform and government reorganization. They aren't health care or environment -- but they're still Democratic policy initiatives, and the president will still need to make choices about which ones to push, and how hard.
As far as vetoing anything...I suspect that Silver is dead wrong about that, although much depends on GOP strategy. If Republicans in the House mainly take symbolic votes to please their base -- like the ACA repeal vote -- then their bills will die a quick death in the Senate. It's highly likely, however, that over time they (and the GOP minority in the Senate) will shift to finding ways of forcing tough votes for marginal Democratic Senators, votes on bills or amendments that are popular (or at least thought to be popular) but which liberals don't like. In that situation, it's easy to predict that marginal Democratic Senators scramble for safety, rather than volunteering to fall on grenades to spare Barack Obama from taking the hit.
So, no, the 112th isn't going to be anything like the historic 111th Congress, but that doesn't mean that Obama can ignore what's going on at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. There's still plenty of legislative drama, or perhaps no-drama, to come.