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What Options Do Republicans Have to Counter Obama’s Pen?

Emboldened by his "Year of Action" promise, the president is signing away.

by
Bill Straub

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February 24, 2014 - 11:18 pm
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WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans, seething over what they view as President Obama’s continued rule by fiat, are continuing to search for a way to stem a perceived blizzard of executive orders that dilute their legislative powers.

There’s only one problem — lawmakers have few tools to curtail any White House overreach.

Stymied throughout much of his five-year term by Republicans bent on derailing his agenda, Obama declared 2014 to be “a year of action” and said he would “act on my own” to move his plans if the GOP continued to get in the way, noting that “I have got a pen and I have got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders.”

And he has, to a degree, carried through on that vow, especially when it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, by unilaterally delaying some of the law’s dictates. He also has moved to basically institute the DREAM Act, a bill that failed to pass Congress that affords protections to undocumented aliens who entered the U.S. as children.

Obama also moved to raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, from the current $7.25, without seeking congressional consideration. The action was intended to pressure lawmakers into approving an increase for all minimum-wage workers, something Congress has yet to do. And then there were administration decisions to refuse to prosecute many low-level marijuana users and rewrite the work requirement found in welfare reform.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and others maintain the president, by employing executive orders to circumvent Congress, is tiptoeing around the separation of powers as outlined in the Constitution.

Boehner said Republicans are “going to watch very closely because there’s a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him.”

“We have a Constitution,” Boehner said. “We abide by it. If he tries to ignore it, he’s going to run into a brick wall.”

Democrats generally dismiss GOP objections. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, insisted that the president’s actions are “not really that much out of the ordinary.”

“Unfortunately, it appears that some here view policy disagreements as constitutional crises and proof of possible wrongdoing,” he said.

But some constitutional scholars disagree. Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law – who admittedly shares much of the president’s politics – acknowledges that Obama has breached normal boundaries, asserting that “when a president claims the inherent power of both legislation and enforcement, he becomes a virtual government unto himself.”

“A president is not required to enforce all laws equally or dedicate the same resources to every federal program,” Turley said. “Even with this ample allowance, however, I believe that President Barack Obama has crossed the constitutional line between discretionary enforcement and defiance of federal law. Congress is given the defining function of creating and amending federal law. This is more than a turf fight between politicians. The division of governmental powers is designed to protect liberty by preventing the abusive concentration of power. All citizens – Democratic or Republican or independent — should consider the inherent danger presented by a president who can unilaterally suspend laws as a matter of presidential license.”

Tension between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government has existed since the founding of the republic. President Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory was accomplished with dubious constitutionality and without congressional support – although a House vote to reject the acquisition failed by two votes. President Andrew Jackson closed the Second Bank of the United States in the face of strong congressional opposition, leading to his censure for what lawmakers considered his abuse of presidential power during what was called “The Bank War.”

There exists a long history of presidents expanding their authority and, thus, circumventing Congress. Obama’s direct predecessor, President George W. Bush, pushed the envelope by signing legislation passed by Congress into law while simultaneously issuing a “signing statement” that immediately modified the intent of said legislation.

Bush used signing statements to challenge about 1,200 sections of bills during his eight years in office — about twice the number issued by all previous presidents combined, according to Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University in Ohio.

That practice drew stern objections from Democrats, but they faced the same barriers Republicans today confront in attempting to challenge Obama’s executive orders.

Top Rated Comments   
The founders foresaw that a man like Obama would come along eventually. The seat of the presidency would eventually see a man in it determined to seize ever more power onto him and his cronies. The president is human and given enough time and history, we were bound to get a proto-dictator eventually.

So they built in checks and balances…

Unfortunately, the founders did not foresee a man like Harry Reid (and his caucus). A man who happily cedes power to the executive against his better interests or the better interests of the country…
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Congress in general and Republicans in particular have all the tools they need to make the President's life a living hell - if they so choose. McConnell could bring all the business of the Senate to a screeching halt. Boehner, if he so choose has the power to defund all of the Executive's operations by refusing to fund the federal government.

But, we all know that at a minimum half of the GOP lawmakers today are in general agreement with the goals of the Democrats - the House Speaking and Senate Minority Leader included. Additionally, there is absolutely no political will within the GOP to fight the President and his own party on the GOP terms. A good example of this is how little effort the Republicans are making to take political advantage of the implosion of ObamaCare. As a group they are mum, or worse still they are in silent agreement with the Democrats. Ditto for Benghazi, the IRS abuses, etc... Not one prominent Republican in a position of power is willing to take the fight to the President. Not one.

You know the game is fixed when the only issue that the Republican Party at the national level gets excited about is Amnesty.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The House still controls the purse strings, which is a lot of power.
The problem is that it absolutely refuses to use that power, even when its own survival as a relevant body is at stake, let alone that of the country.

The threat of not being invited to DC cocktail parties trumps any worries about the ongoing shredding of the Constitution any day of the week, and twice during recess.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (33)
All Comments   (33)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Ohhhhh Obie better watch out big bad John Boehner is “going to watch very closely..." Watching very closely take guts and nerves of steel. What can the Repubs do how about growing a pair, stand up to the Ob, say NO loud and clear just like Ted Cruz, flood the media with their objections. The American people are DONE with this do nothing, partisan mummer show.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe the first president to be impeached as Andrew JOHNSON, not Andrew JACKSON.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Impeach now.
Or the idea of republican government in the "USA" is dead.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The gutless Republicans in the House have had over 20 opportunities to impeach Obama -- and nary a whimper of Impeachment.....
They are a paper tiger with no teeth.... and Obama knows it.....
Boner (Boehner) needs to be sent home to clean the family bar..... something that he is competent to do....
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
"What options do Republicans have to counter Obama's pen"?
They have lots of 'options', the primary one being to remove Obama
from office, but that's just not going to happen, because there is no one
on Capitol Hill with the courage to do it.......no one.
We are represented in Congress by incompetent cowards, liers and thieves,
who care not one iota fro the safety and security of this once great nation.
Good luck, America.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Keep your powder dry and win the Senate. No excuses after that.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hate to be the wet blanket here, but the (R)'s winning the Senate, won't change anything at all in Washington. The (D)'s will filibuster anything and everything, and will be hailed has heroes for it.

If you're expecting the (R)'s to all of sudden start standing together as one and fighting against Obamism, you're in for a big disappointment, I'm very sorry to say.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
What can the GOP do? Grow a spine for a start. The House can cut off money to programs, but so far having a majority in the House has amounted to bupkus. They keep talking big, but when it comes to actually do something they roll over. They could have really made the shutdown painful for the president, but went down faster than the prom queen at homecoming.

We need to clean house.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The House has already ceded it's "power of the purse" to Obamism. Boehner has already proven he has no sack and like the rest of the GOPe are terrified to be called bad names in the State-Run media.

They're not even willing to whisper the "I" word, and have already taken that off the table, essentially giving Obamism the green light to be America's first Dictator for the next 2+ years.

And the GOPe getting a majority in the Senate, since a good portion of those in the Senate have proven they are no better than DimocRats, will mean nothing.

Any shiny new GOPe majority in the Senate will still be gridlocked by filibustering Dims (with some "R's" mixed in) and the fact they will never get all the (R)'s to stand together on anything.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The founders foresaw that a man like Obama would come along eventually. The seat of the presidency would eventually see a man in it determined to seize ever more power onto him and his cronies. The president is human and given enough time and history, we were bound to get a proto-dictator eventually.

So they built in checks and balances…

Unfortunately, the founders did not foresee a man like Harry Reid (and his caucus). A man who happily cedes power to the executive against his better interests or the better interests of the country…
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent points, the founders also didn't foresee an "opposition party" that refuses to use any of those checks and balances for fear of being called bad names in the State-Run media.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Show him some Harold Ramis movies. That will make him question is own authority and stop signing things.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
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