In the twilight of President Obama’s term, I’ve been vaguely worried he might have a surprise or two up his sleeve. Not so much flowers and tax relief. More like one last black eye from your soon-to-be-ex. A parting gift, if you will. I’m sorry to be proven right. I’m even sorrier I underestimated the extent of his hijinx.
With the final weeks of this president’s term winding down, each frigid day is punctuated with a string of ill-advised statements and poorly-thought-out actions, courtesy of the Obama administration. I want to share a key point about Barack Obama first, to give you an idea of what is driving him. It doesn’t make his actions any wiser but it’s good to know:
As the US and our allies watch uneasily, the outgoing president has stepped up his already infamous use of executive actions, to take increasingly serious steps, some with global consequences, without the advice or consent of anyone. Who needs other perspectives? The official term for this phenomena is midnight regulations, or laws created unilaterally by an outgoing president. Maybe these regulations are called “midnight” because the concept won’t bear close inspection. Too much examination would be sure to outlaw them.
Nostalgia has set in, and Obama can’t resist returning to his favorite character: the finger-wagging moralist lecturing the masses on ‘the right thing to do’. Midnight regulations are the perfect complement to executive actions, lest any skeptical person think they are at liberty to determine for themselves what the right thing to do is.
The president is stretching these regulations far beyond their limits. Why? The GOP leadership created a lot of unnecessary hostility between themselves and the president; they treated Obama shabbily, swearing to vote down anything the Democrats advanced, which is just ridiculous.
You can’t blame him for feeling angry at this unfair treatment but when they went low, Obama went even lower. He didn’t make an extra effort to gain allies in Congress as every other president has. Instead, Obama simply cut Congress out of the process, using executive action to pass whatever he wanted and saying bluntly, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”
Because of the friction with Congress, the majority of President Obama’s important actions, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), i.e., Obamacare, were passed through executive action. Note: a small piece of the ACA did go to Congress, but the majority was passed via executive action, under a very broad umbrella of budgeting legislation. Because stuff costs money, right? Trillions, in this case.
The Heart of the Issue
The founders were very clear about the separation of powers, and passing law through Congress, as prescribed in the Constitution. To safeguard the country against a president ruling like a king through executive orders (much as the president has done), there is a clause: anything passed by executive action can be repealed by executive action.
Everything important Obama did as president was via executive action. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal all of Obama’s executive orders.