As part of the “We Can’t Wait” campaign, President Obama is pushing as many economic measures as he can using executive branch authority. There are obvious institutional limits, but as we’ve seen this week — on mortgage refinancing, jobs for veterans, reducing student-loan burdens — the White House has some options. They’re not enough to give the economy a major boost, but they’re steps in the right direction.
Not surprisingly, House Speaker John Boehner isn’t happy.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that he has “great concerns” that President Obama may be exceeding his constitutional authority in ordering his administration to adjust regulations surrounding “underwater” mortgages and student loans, saying, “this idea that you are just going to go around the Congress is … almost laughable.”
Actually, what’s “laughable” is that a Congress with a 9% approval rating — the lowest since the dawn of modern polling — refuses to even consider passing jobs bills during a jobs crisis, leaving the president to explore other alternatives. Obama has pleaded with Congress to take its responsibilities seriously, but Republicans refuse to act. Of course the president wants to “go around the Congress”; by refusing to govern, Boehner and his cohorts haven’t left him with much of a choice.
“I thought we were a nation of laws and that our country was governed by our Constitution,” Boehner said Thursday on the “Laura Ingraham Show.”
And if Boehner can find any evidence that the president is exceeding his legal authorities, I’m sure we’d all love to see it. In the meantime, if the Speaker would whine less and govern more, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
But Boehner isn’t just wrong; he’s also hypocritical. Obama is using executive orders, for example, to make some modest advances in various policy areas. Boehner may find this “almost laughable” now, but the Speaker was reading from a very different script when George W. Bush was in office.
In January 2008, for example, Boehner applauded a Bush executive order on earmarks, traditionally an issue dealt with in the legislative branch. In December 2008, Boehner urged Bush to issue an executive order — going around the Congress — after Congress failed to pass the Safety at Sea Act.
In June 2007, Boehner was equally thrilled when the Republican president took it upon himself to act on stem-cell policy without input from Congress.
So the question for the Speaker, then, is why it’s “laughable” when Obama uses his authority to help the economy, but it’s fine when Bush used his authority to act on his priorities?