Executive orders, congressional disorder

U.S. Capitol for blogBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

This past week saw two big news events that weren’t actually very “new”: President Obama’s announcement that he is issuing yet another executive order, this one related to gun restrictions, and Republicans in Congress voting to repeal Obamacare.

Obama’s executive order, which attempts among other things to close the gun show loophole, doesn’t seem to be that significant a policy move or even a bad proposal. Sellers should all play by the same rules, and I’m not opposed to there being one less avenue for crazy people, convicted felons and terrorists-in-waiting to be able to purchase military-grade weapons.

The problem is the process. Congress has not voted to accomplish what Obama wants to accomplish. More concerning, executive orders are becoming a habit of his, the most obvious example being his attempt to completely bypass Congress on immigration policy. That effort is now being tied up in court, where it should be. And I write that despite the fact that, as with the gun show issue, I agree with Obama in principle that the United States should focus on deporting dangerous illegal immigrants while finding a path to legalization for those who have been here awhile and are otherwise obeying the law.

But that’s another column. This is about misusing the presidency’s powers.

I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to write about Obama in hysterical, apocalyptic terms. Let’s instead have a calm, rational discussion, shall we? President Obama is exceeding his constitutional authority. He should stop doing that.

Actually, Obama is doing exactly what the Founding Fathers anticipated a chief executive would do, which is try to exercise power. They knew that was a bad thing, even if the president’s goals were agreeable.

So they included in the Constitution a system of checks and balances to keep that from happening. Congress makes the law; the president enforces the law; the judiciary interprets the law.

Unfortunately, Congress is failing to check and balance the president, and it’s time for congressional Democrats to step up.

Members of Congress are supposed to place their branch above their political parties – which, by the way, are not even mentioned in the Constitution. Throughout American history, senators and representatives have stood up to presidents who have tried to usurp their role. Instead, with exceptions, congressional Democrats today too often are behaving as if this is a British parliamentary system, where a prime minister leads the government and most everybody falls in line most of the time.

Because I’m determined to offend everyone in this column, congressional Republicans share blame as well. The system is supposed to work through a system of checks and balances, not unending dysfunction. Republicans made a political decision from the beginning of Obama’s presidency to make him fail, no matter what. It’s worked for them – politically. They’ve made huge gains in Congress, in governor’s offices, and in state legislatures. But a more constructive approach would have been better for the country.

Now we’ve had yet another vote to repeal Obamacare – one that actually will make its way to Obama’s desk, where he will veto it.

This is happening because Republicans believe it will help them in November prove once again that President Obama supports Obamacare, along with Democrats, as if there were any doubt about all that. Meanwhile, Republicans still haven’t coalesced behind a plan to replace the system they would repeal. The bill they sent to his desk would give policymakers a couple of years to create an alternative, but if they don’t, or can’t, would we all go back to the days when insurance companies denied coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions, or cut them off when they became too expensive to cover? At the moment, I guess we would.

No one’s the hero, and no one is the villain. What’s happening is that a lot of officeholders are caught up in the big game up there, which is one reason why Obama’s approval ratings are only 45 percent, according to Gallup, while Congress’ are at 13.

Anyway, it’s 2016, and time for us regular folks to vote. If we do our jobs better, maybe they will too.

4 thoughts on “Executive orders, congressional disorder

  1. Two thoughts:
    (1) I just saw a chart listing the number of executive orders per year in office that were issued by every president. Every president since Grover Cleveland issued more orders per year in office than Obama has. This claim of lawlessness and irregularity is just more Republican hysteria, another attempt to make him look like “the other.”
    (2) Are all of you waiting for this Congress to do even one little thing? to make us a little safer from guns? to figure out a better way to make healthcare coverage possible for those who need it? to protect the environment? Etc., etc., etc. If we’re waiting for this Congress to do anything positive, we’re worse than those clueless characters who are waiting for Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play.

  2. I think I read where Obama is behind George W Bush in executive orders issued to date. Of course he has a year to catch up and/or pass Bush. It’s not the ideal way to handle things, but Republicans obviously do the same thing when they can. But of course, that’s ok.

    I agree with you that Obamacare may not be the best answer, but at least people have options. I happen to be ‘for’ everyone having insurance, and hopefully the government doesn’t have to pick up the slack for those who choose not to participate.

  3. Hi, Kathy. Thanks for reading and for writing and for always sharing my posts. You’re right that President Obama is behind Bush, and a lot of other presidents, in the number of executive orders. I guess the question is, what have been these executive orders about, and how “big” are they? As for Obamacare, I don’t see how you replace something with nothing. Republicans need to offer some answers.

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