“[W]e are not just going to be waiting for a legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”
That was Barack Obama speaking at a Cabinet meeting on January 14, just hours before the U.S. Senate failed to advance twin proposals to extend long-term unemployment benefits, one by a year at a cost of $17 billion, and another for three months at $6.4 billion.
Obama continued, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone — and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward…”
Was Obama anticipating that Senate Republicans were about to defeat those measures? Was he threatening that he would just extend unemployment benefits all on his own without any vote in Congress should members fail to act?
Certainly, the Senate vote was one of the only pieces of upcoming legislation he referenced: “Congress is going to have some additional work over the course of the next several weeks; specifically, it’s important that they do something about unemployment insurance.”
The only other bill he mentioned was immigration reform, yet, there are no scheduled votes on that any time soon. They could be months away, if at all.
But who knows what Obama might have meant?
After all, this is the same administration that issued a regulation requiring religious-affiliated institutions like hospitals, colleges and charities to provide contraception even if it violates their own teachings — an egregious violation of the freedom of religion under the First Amendment.
There was nothing in the health care law that allowed it. Obama just did it. Now, unsurprisingly, it’s kicking its way through the Supreme Court.
Obama pretended a congressional recess into existence to make radical appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB appointments too are now being considered by the Supreme Court.
His Federal Housing Finance Administration arbitrarily allowed Fannie and Freddie mortgages that are 25 percent higher than market value to be refinanced when the law placing the GSEs in conservatorship never allowed it. The law explicitly stated that the refi’s shall “not exceed 90 percent of the appraised value of the property to which such mortgage relates.”
He ordered an attack on Libya without so much as consulting with Congress. He considered one in Syria and nearly pulled the trigger.
His Justice Department took on the role of a court and declared the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, and refused to defend the law when that was its role — whether it agreed with it or not.
His EPA arbitrarily declared carbon dioxide, a gas essential to life itself, to be a “harmful pollutant” covered under the Clean Air Act, even though Congress never amended that law to include carbon emissions.
His Federal Reserve printed $1.25 trillion out of thin air to buy back dodgy securities from banks that bet poorly on U.S. housing, including $442.7 billion that was given to foreign banks. Even today, the Fed continues purchasing government and mortgage bonds in a $900 billion a year subsidy to banks.
Last year, it was revealed that the administration was continuing to implement a National Security Agency program gathering records on every American, using the Patriot Act as a legal justification even though the author of the law, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), says the blanket surveillance is expressly forbidden by that law, not to mention the U.S. Constitution. This is another one working its way up to the Supreme Court.
The Treasury and the IRS, not content with its ad-hoc persecution of tea party groups, the day after Thanksgiving issued a regulation rewriting rules surrounding 501(c)4 tax-exempt organizations all with one aim, to silence political opponents. Once finalized, expect it to be instantly fast-tracked into federal courts, too.
Most recently, his EPA preempted Pebble Mine’s application for a mining permit — rejecting it prior to even the submission of a mining plan by its owner — all in circumvention of the rigorous guidelines set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act.
All this without any votes in Congress.
But let’s be fair. Sometimes, Obama has not been alone in claiming executive powers. Along the way, Congress has helped give him some, too.
The Dodd-Frank financial takeover created a permanent bailout-takeover fund, giving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation nearly limitless powers to levy assessments on bank holding and insurance companies, and to seize, liquidate, and redistribute whatever companies the government deems to be “systemically risky”.
The individual mandate under Obamacare will allow faceless bureaucrats to funnel tens of millions of Americans from their private health plans into government-run health plans.
One could go on and on.
It’s not a question of whether Obama’s pen is mightier than Congress. He’s out there proving it every day. The question is what Congress is going to do about it.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.