Red and blue America: Is Obama overreaching with executive orders?
In that sense, President Obama is no different from past presidents. But in crucial ways, he has used and abused his powers in ways his predecessors could only fantasize about.
Unilaterally raising the federal minimum wage for government contractors may have Republicans in Congress pulling their hair out this week, but that’s among the least of this president’s usurpations of their lawmaking authority.
Committing American airpower in 2011 to help overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi without so much as consulting Congress was a milestone in presidential overreach. Obama called it “leading from behind.” In the aftermath, four U.S. State Department employees were killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and Libya is splitting along old tribal lines and descending further into chaos.
Obama decided in 2012 that Congress wasn’t doing enough to reform U.S. immigration laws. So he signed an executive order barring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service from deporting minors and relatives of U.S. service members living in the United States illegally.
The president’s justification was at least somewhat plausible: “prosecutorial discretion” gives him some leeway on enforcement. But immigration enforcement officers complain, with justice, that Obama’s orders have effectively tied their hands.
But when the president decided to delay his health care law’s “employer mandate,” he engaged in nothing less than wholesale lawlessness. The reason for the delay boils down to cynical political calculation: forcing employers with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance ahead of the 2014 midterm elections would likely disrupt the economy and be bad for Democrats. Nothing more to it than that.
Congress has for too long delegated far too much of its power to the executive branch. It’s past time the legislative branch used its authority to hold this president to account, starting with enforcing his ill-conceived health care reform law.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Website: www.facebook.com/benandjoel.
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