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The GOP has been in a tizzy lately over President Obama's use of executive orders to end run existing legislation. A bunch of House Republicans have co-sponsored the Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP) resolution to take legal action against the President. Here's what the GOP is complaining about with STOP. From The Hill:
"...the STOP resolution is aimed at reversing Obama's delay of the [Obamacare] employer mandate, enactment of the Dream Act, extension of "substandard" health insurance plans and ending work requirements for welfare".
Obama supporters were quick to point out that Obama has actually issued fewer executive orders than most Presidents, but that talking point is meaningless. It doesn't matter how many executive orders a President issues . Most are mundane and well within the President's power. (FYI - the all-time champ for issuing executive orders was FDR, who issued 3,522, about 1/4th of the total for all Presidents combined). What does matter is when a President issues executive orders that go beyond his constitutional reach. The President does not have the power to change legislation at his whim. As the Constitution states, the President "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed". It doesn't say the President shall take care that the laws be failthfully executed unless he doesn't feel like it. If a President goes against existing law, doing an end run around Congress, subverting the legislative process, and eroding our system of checks and balances, then the charge of an imperial presidency becomes a whole lot more valid.
Before we get further into whether Obama has acted lawlessly, I have to point out that there is a great deal of partisan hypocrisy when it comes to presidential powers. For example, President George W. Bush engaged in warrantless wiretapping without FISA court approval following 9/11. That was against existing law, but I don't remember the GOP getting all riled up about that one. Bush also gutted the Presidential Records Act, which required executive branch transparency, and he went pretty far out on the limb with the enhanced interrogations of Guantanomo detainees, which went against the Geneva convention. Bush used a wartime rationale to sidestep legislation and claim additional executive powers post-9/11, but that would have to be determined by a court of law. I don't recall any GOP legislation written to stop their own "imperial" President. Democrats screamed over these Bush moves, but they are completely silent now that their man is in office and doing the same thing. Democrats even cheered President Obama at the State Of The Union when he said he would act on his own if Congress did not go along with his plans. Just yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged Obama to halt deportations of illegal immigrants. As I said, hypocrites. They think it's okay when their side does it. They think it's horrible when the other side does it.
Now let's take a look at Obama's unconstitutional actions. In addition to delaying and changing Obamacare 27 times without congressional authorization, enacting the Dream Act without congressional authorization, and ending work requirements for welfare without congressional authorization, which were all named in the GOP's STOP legislation, this President has done much more. He went to war in Libya without congressional authorization. He ordered the Justice Department to stop enforcing the Defense Of Marriage Act (Obama decided it was unconstitutional all on his own). He appointed several people to cabinet level positions without the constitutionally required advice and consent of the Senate. When Congress didn't pass Cap And Trade, Obama told the EPA to issue regulations to implement key portions of it. He has failed to enforce other immigration laws beside the Dream Act. He signed an executive order giving the government emergency control over the internet. He engaged in near universal NSA spying, data-mining, and data storage of Americans phone records. He enacted his own gun laws. I'm sure I'm leaving some things out.
And I haven't even mentioned Fast And Furious, which has been tied to the executive branch (Justice Dept.), or the IRS targeting of conservatives (the IRS is part of the executive branch).
Given all this, is Obama lawless, an imperial President ?