|When all else fails, there’s always executive order|
|Thursday, 03 November 2011 14:04|
Americans, frustrated by Congress' relentless opposition to President Barack Obama's key social and economic legislation, support the presidents declaration that, "We can't wait on Congress to do its job. So where they can't act, I will."
Obama used his presidential executive powers last week to implement measures that circumvent Congress' determination to jeopardize his proposed Jobs Act. The U.S. Senate recently voted down the proposed bill, and the U.S. House has not yet begun to debate it.
These measures by executive order include: a mortgage refinancing plan, which allows over a million strapped homeowners to refinance and meet their mortgage payments; a revised student-loan repayment program, to ease repayment pressure for college students; a job plan to assist thousands of veterans; and a program that helps businesses speed up research and development and increase their export potential.
The president's supporters, although elated that he is using the executive powers the office of the U.S. president allows, still wonder why it took him so long. Other critics accuse him of acting "unconstitutionally" for bypassing Congress in legislative matters.
Obama perhaps is wary of being seen as running the nation by presidential decree. He has signed only 45 executive orders in his administration, compared to President George W. Bush, who signed 43 in 2001 alone. The U.S. is, after all, a democracy and not a kingdom or autocracy.
The U.S. Constitution clearly defines the presidency as the executive branch of the U.S. government and Congress as the nation's legislative body, responsible for deliberating and passing legislation. But it does give a president the right to implement measures where Congress is unable, or reluctant to do so.
Therefore, any criticism that Obama's measures are unconstitutional is just political posturing. Most presidents have passed critical executive orders, often to bypass a blocked Congress. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation by executive order. President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order to desegregate schools, and President Gerald Ford signed one to pardon President Richard Nixon for atrocities related to the Watergate scandal.
However, executive orders cannot be used by presidents to approve funding for any measure implemented. None of the measures approved by Obama last week incurs more spending from the national budget. Unlike legislation passed by Congress, an executive order signed by one president can be rescinded by his successor. At best, executive orders are powerful options to be used by sitting presidents to bypass a stubborn Congress, but they are not as weighty as laws passed by Congress.
When he announced his measures to assist students with student-loan repayments at the University of Colorado in Denver last week, the president said, "We're going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress."
Notwithstanding his latest actions, one wonders if Obama had been less focused on compromise with opponents committed to restricting him to one term, and more on the executive power of his office to improve the economy and provide jobs, perhaps more of his intended policies would have been implemented without the frustrating delays.
President Obama may have hesitated in the past to use executive orders, but with little over a year to go before he faces voters for a crucial re-election, he may have realized that using executive orders is not only administratively practical, but politically as well.
Getting key aspects of his $447 billion jobs bill approved by Congress would help Obama's re-election. The strength and wisdom he has shown in mixing executive orders with persistent pressure on Congress to approve the bill shows a president determined to secure victory for millions of Americans depending on him for leadership in improving their standard of living, and, by extension his own victory.
For Obama supporters and critics who thought he was slow in taking control, more measures will likely be approved by executive order. Last week, the White House communications director said, "This president is not going to sit around. You're going to see the administration pick up the pace."
|Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2011 12:48|